Call Me Chicken

I was afraid period. Of alligators swimming in the moat
on the staircase landing. The genie living in the air conditioner.
A burglar shooting my father on the front lawn and the piney
knots in the basement cabinets with their Edvard Munch faces.
The storm doors where the burglar broke in while we were away,
That clichéd darkness under the bed that will snatch my arm
if it hung down toward the floor. The Wicked Witch of the West,
Sheba, the German shepherd down the street with her drooling fangs
and let’s not forget singing the name Jesus in Christmas carols
on the stage of Roosevelt School. I was terrified G-d would not forgive

me. I was afraid, too, of taking tests and eating sausage
on Yom Kippur, that not placing rocks on our parents’ graves
would bring a bad-luck year, of shredding ancestral hands
pulling at my legs while I walked the cemetery. I was mortified
of getting an A minus and horrified at the thought of turning
in homework late and not obeying every teacher’s instructions.

Call me chicken, but I was afraid the big tree in the backyard
behind us would crash. I am now afraid of making yet
another mistake in choosing a mate, in letting someone
other than my son or massage therapist touch me,
of not fitting into the airplane seat even with an extension
belt, of my cancer returning. I fear that years of not listening
to my doctors will lead to life-draining dialysis. But mostly
I fear I will die with unsold manuscripts under my bed,
my voice held captive by Times New Roman.