Do Not

Matthew Roberson


He didn’t turn on the light.
He didn’t want to wake the kids.

He didn’t make a pot of coffee.


He didn’t forget to feed the dogs.
They didn’t let him.


He didn’t want the sun to rise.
He didn’t want the day to start.

He didn’t want to nag the kids out the door.

They didn’t like schooldays.
He didn’t blame them.

But they didn’t get a choice.
He didn’t, either.


He didn’t take the short way to work.
He didn’t speed up at the yellow light.

He didn’t listen to music.
He didn’t want to hear the news.


He didn’t get to work earlier or later than ever.
He didn’t think anyone would notice.

He didn’t mind climbing the stairs.

He didn’t want to be skinny.
But he didn’t want a heart attack, either.
He didn’t think the kids would survive without him.


He didn’t say good morning to the girl at the front desk.
She didn’t say it back.
He didn’t know how she answered the phone with nails that long.
He didn’t give it much thought.
He didn’t have the luxury.

If he didn’t focus, he’d be lost.

He didn’t care, for himself.
But he didn’t come first.

He didn’t stop moving until he was in his office.

Then he didn’t step out from behind his desk.

He didn’t go down the hall for coffee.
He didn’t join people for lunch.

He didn’t use the bathroom much.

He didn’t stop working until his work was done.

Then he didn’t stick around.


If he didn’t get groceries, no one would.


He didn’t like the expense of the fancy store.
He didn’t know who else sold organic milk.
The kids didn’t drink anything else.

They didn’t eat anything other than organic noodles and eggs and veggies and fruit.


He didn’t go down the candy aisle.
He didn’t buy beer or wine.


The kids didn’t mind the after-school program, they said.

He didn’t know if it was true.
But he didn’t ask again.


He didn’t say no to TV.
He didn’t think a little would hurt.
He didn’t know how else to keep them busy.

And he didn’t want to fight about it.


He didn’t mind passing the salt.

He didn’t think they should eat so fast.
Didn’t they have something to say about the day?


He didn’t ever buy anything but ice cream for dessert.
He didn’t think that would change.


He didn’t want to clear the table by himself, thank you very much.


He didn’t forget to feed the dogs.
They didn’t let him.


He didn’t have parents to help.
He didn’t have his brother or sisters close by.

His in-laws didn’t intrude.
And he didn’t want the kids visiting them.
He didn’t want the kids to be away at all, ever.


He didn’t rush the kids to sleep.
He didn’t say no when they wanted him to stay and sit.

They didn’t ask much anymore about her.

He didn’t forget to say she’d loved them.


If he didn’t do the dishes they wouldn’t get done.
If he didn’t pay bills.


He didn’t watch TV before bed.
And he didn’t read a book.

He didn’t do a thing.

He didn’t know what to imagine, or hope for next.