it is necessary
to cherish her hands, the childish
voice ringing in the eastern hallway
the treasured skull-bones beneath your touch
before the chance of violence
pluming as the tiger's growl deep
in its chest to roar
rears its fiery head
to leave her with ash smeared on her cheek

how do you deny her
your mother-wail as she falls
the father long gone in search for salvation—
she asks each night—
how do you deny her, breathing much
too gently, papers clutched, memory
of being cradled by black water
screaming as you dream her lovely head split
by earthquakes in the dark

surely it is necessary then
to hold dear, count
knuckles at night in lieu of lullabies—
pray do not
take her away
from me.