Kate Peper

“Uneasy Lies the Head… ”

                        that wears a crown.”
                      Shakespeare, Henry IV

       The fiords and Damascus?
No, The Sword over Damocles,
You don’t hear so good, my friend says.
Well, I say, I don’t hear so well.
Something my father drummed into me.

Not the same well back home
that filled with rain water and echoed
when you called into its blackness.
Bluebells lined its cracked rim
where my father took me aside and said,
Don’t tell anyone, but I pray here every day.
I imagined his heart, head bowed
as he sank to his knees.

Later, he told me it was guilt that drove him,
his hands trembling, head turning away as he shaved,
so what what I heard was “gilded” as in something shiny.
No, he said, “guilt” while he shaved and I, a girl of 15,
watched him with this ritual,
the blade clearing swaths of cream from the cheeks,
then the upper lip and last, the neck.
My cue to hand him the tie
he’d circle under his clean chin, then knot.