James Allen Hall


The father does not knock on the locked door
gently, as if loving a small hurt thing.
The father does not say please over and over,
until his voice becomes unraw with the not-said.
The mother inside the room
does not hold a gun to her chest.
The mother did not make the father
into what stands knocking: a safety
the mother clicks on and off.
She has not just ended an affair
with a brutal, brutal man.
The mother’s heart is not broken.
The children are not asleep in their rooms.
They will never know how close
the mother comes to the trigger,
they will not grow up
to take the father’s place.
The father is the mask, the terrible delay.

James Allen Hall
“Safety” is from Now You’re the Enemy (University of Arkansas Press, 2008).