Twain Dooley



I’m listening
to cars passing outside the window.
they don’t stop.

I’m listening
to my sister turn the pages of her book
slower than usual

I’m listening to my brothers
one is building a wall with words
the other is working to keep hope inflated
his face flat against the window

I’m listening to the clock, click, clack
and the telephone
I’m listening for the telephone
it still hasn’t rung

In the kitchen
I can hear my mother
biting her tongue over the clank of breakfast dishes

Brother two is holding his breath
brother one is saying, he told us so
the clock is long past the promised time

No matter how I try
I can not hear
the words that will console my brothers

I can hear the roller-coasters that we were supposed to ride today
the laughter of the thousands whose fathers showed up

When the excuses come
I won’t hear them
My father’s voice will waa waa waa like Charlie Brown’s teachers
I won’t listen. No need to.
I already learned the lessons
The last time he did this
The lessons that will forge my
Adult behavior

Like anytime anybody tells me they love me
I’ll wait. Let them prove it.

And what my lovers
And more importantly, my children
Will view as indecision when they request anything
“maybe” “we’ll see” “I ain’t sure”
Will be me avoiding promises
Me in my own fucked up way
Avoiding passing on the lessons I learned like:

Don’t dream out loud
Don’t even hope so anybody can hear.

photo by Thomas Sayers Ellis

Twain Dooley is a first generation American. Born and raised in Washington, DC, he learned to use language to talk himself into and out of inner-city challenges. He joined the Army Reserves and served on active duty during Desert Storm. After a two-year stay in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (as a civilian), he returned to his home town and began to perform his poetry for a variety of audiences. Twain wrote several books and toured as founding member with The Modern Urban Griots. He has opened for Amiri Baraka and Jimmy “JJ” Walker. He has earned a spot on the DC/Baltimore slam team eight times, winning the top honors three. Twain has been called, “funny,”“clever,”“insightful,” and some other things that you probably wouldn’t print in a bio. He currently shares his love of words with students and is working on the story of his life, “None Of This Makes Sense.”


Published in Volume 10:2, Spring 2009.