JoAnna Novak


He, in brazen insomnia, crawls across my wrist while my husband sleeps. We call him Francisco, but he walks only on me. That mouse: He loves my smell, and I love him, without reproach. No one bothers my fancy. The poor mouse is smaller than my thumb.

I walk a lot. The sun sets the sky fire colors; everyone's fear mounts. The car collects tickets. Since I have only seen the mouse once before, I expect him, always, on his way, unraveling a nest of shadows. Gingerly, our glasses and alcohol await me. I will not hurt the mouse, but my thumb opens and drips.

This open floor plan. This stuffy kitchen, this tidy dining room, this dead living area: Francisco likes tricking these rooms at night. I know this, I know. The mouse doesn't favor our bedroom.

The floorboards gape. The snakeless space. The mouse could be in the walls. The mouse might be under my skin—this could explain my muss, mouse-marked and spotty. Mouse my mouth.

Maybe I should be grateful. I am afraid of Francisco, yet he occupies my mind. What does he look like? He, a swollen she. For instance, I am watching a movie with my husband. We are on a serviceable couch without throw pillows. My husband has fallen asleep on my lap. His heavy head is curls.

I relax the nightly fist of my thoughts. And then I spot him. Francisco: He will not die.