Thomas Speer
  • Thomas Speer
  • I wake to the scream of the fire alarm,
  • like the shock of neon in the dark,
  • stumble into the hall, and see
  • a tongue of light beneath Carmen’s
  • doorway. Throwing the door open,
  • I find her standing in the center
  • of her room, in a pool of smoke
  • so thick I can scarcely see her feet.
  • I watch her as she pours water
  • into a blackened, half melted
  • wastebasket. She is naked.
  • She appears to rise
  • out of the smoke like a Venus.
  • She does not cover her body,
  • or run to hide, only says to me
  • calmly, with all the dignity
  • of her 14 years, “I’ve been smoking,”
  • and then, looking down, “I am naked ...
  • you should leave.” It is like
  • seeing her for the first time:
  • she stands still as a pond in summer,
  • and I am as filled with wonder
  • as ever in my life. Not knowing
  • what to say, I throw open the windows
  • and tell her put on your clothes ...
  • go to bed, words so ordinary,
  • so insufficient they spill
  • to the floor, and stepping
  • back into the doorway I take a last,
  • awkward look around,
  • shaking my head,
  • and return to my bed.

Tom Speer is the father of Carmen Speer, the heroine of this poem and the co-author of their book of poems, Tandem Space: Daughter Father Poems. His first book of poems was titled My Father’s Shoes. Both books are published by the Pima Poets Series.

After teaching full-time for 20 years at Pima College in Tucson, Tom Speer is at least partially retired, taking occasional art and fiction-writing classes, writing poems and stories, and traveling the countryside with his wife. 

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