My father was a volcano
spewing lava that night,
tables became timber —
curtains fell, walls crumbled.

My mother was a hummingbird
darting between him and us
wings humming false promises
that evaporated in the heat.

In the next room, my sister and I shared
a double bed like we had shared
our mother’s womb, a tangle of legs
and arms, her thumping heart close to mine.

A sliver of light sliced our room
as Mother appeared, then disappeared again.

I folded my arms and blinked
like “I Dream of Jeannie.”

In the morning, we tiptoed over rocky
landscape, washed our hands in ashes.

 We waited.

Café du Monde

After a humid morning walking
the French Quarter, we sink into black
metal chairs under a canopy at Café du Monde.
My sister and I chase warm beignets
with snow-cold milk while our parents
sip chicory coffee bitter as a late-night argument. Popping
the last bites into our mouths, we want
to take a riverboat cruise, walk Bourbon Street,
shop in the French Market, ride home in a trolley car along
St. Charles Avenue. Dad leans back, blowing
smoke rings. Slow down, there’s plenty of time. Mom
crosses her arms, then stares into her cup, dark and bottomless.

  ~ from I Know When to Keep Quiet by Dawn Leas
~ Poems also featured on, October 2008