Bedtime Story

He set the sun and the moon
to be earth’s lamplight, lanterns for men

Hinged on the glowing pin
of a porch light,
a blurring twister of moth wings

makes twin shadows of sisters
at the window. At a word
from their father, they patter

up the stairs, nude as moon babies,
and come floating
back in wisps. Another word

and they flit down the hall
and return with mint-
scented breath, pleading for him

to let them be a little longer. He
could nearly let dawn
find him just as he is, sprawled

and watching as they stand on their toes
to follow the same pale
and whirling blaze that caught him.

That was long ago, a lamp
by a mountain lake, his father
and the lapping of dark water. Yes,

a while longer, please,
the skittery wings
of their fingers at the glass, tapping.

*Originally published in Talking River (Winter 2015).

Derek Sheffield’s book of poems, Through the Second Skin (Orchises, 2013), was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. His poems have also appeared in Poetry, The Georgia Review, Orion, Shenandoah, and The Southern Review, and were given special mention in the 2016 Pushcart Prize Anthology. He teaches poetry and ecological writing at Wenatchee Valley College, serves as poetry editor of, and lives with his family in the foothills of the Cascades near Leavenworth, Washington.

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