Sleeping in the Shelter
by Tobi Cogswell

Consider this small cot as my large bed.
I roll between the edges, a surfer
riding trivial waves, my arms straight down
grasping the sides, shoulders up to protect.
I wake each 4am, I have not dreamt.
My toiletries and towel in plastic
like camping in a bad horror movie.
But I am middle aged, not in the scouts,
not in high school this is life, not art, not
someone's idea of a reality
show gone very wrong on Planet Scary.

One woman has a gorgeous gospel voice.
The first few days she brought a bit of peace,
now I am ravenous for the loud clangs
of any sound other than churchly hues.
I want some portion of my old life back -

I cannot stretch, whisper with my husband,
hands clasped overhead, every cell speaking,
bodies asking "my friend, how was your day?",
full mouth kisses bringing warmth to sad spots -
he's not here, my true lover, true love.

Our men sleep separately from the women.
They say it's for privacy, but I think
it's for protection, and for our children
who have already seen and heard too much.
So we gather our babies on stomachs
achy with hunger and grief, wait for the
diaper delivery from far away,
pass around one copy of Good Night Moon
and miss our men, promise we will never
again complain about the farts and snores,
make deals if only we could go on home.

This cabin fever is killing my soul.
I feel guilty because I'm not grateful
anymore, just impatient to be gone.
Consider this small cot as my large bed.
A prison in a sea of kindness still
bears the mantle and chains of the confined.

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