huddling under the covers and knowing

that if an elbow or toe peeked out,

whatever passing gods there were

would steal it before midnight. Turn my fingers

into someone else’s. Only third grade, and I knew

I owed them more than modesty. Respect.

The way you don’t look right at the sun

and the way you don’t slap your mother back.

Even now, the little rituals. Apologizing to an ant

after I bounced a basketball right through

its shell. Touching the bottom of the pool

with both hands. As we grow, we forget

how little keeps the world in check.

A misplaced touch or a bad thought is not worth

what it might bring. Not cracked spines,

but the tiny piece of you that spirits claim before dawn.

The fingers that you do not recognize.

If you, in the dark of childhood, let your limbs peek

once from under the covers, you may never know

how many gods wore your hands in the twilight.

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