“The Answer Sheet” by Christine Hamm

1. Because your baby, rolling down the grass slope behind the garage, refused to believe it was anything other than reverse hop-scotch.

2. Why can’t you get it under control?1

3. Tried to set the house on fire, but they only managed to tenderize our brothers with their fists and hose.

4. Acting as if our thumbs were sewn together.2

5. It matters because there’s a space where the redwood deck leans away from the house, a gap the length of a child’s arm.

6. Did you wash your hands? 3

7. Fade away into the forest, sink into the edge of the lake, become invisible behind elevator doors.

8. Stop pretending to be able to stand my voice.4

9. Laughed and ate cheese: the photographer took two hours to test the light, had you change swimsuits twice, but you never learned to drown right.

10. You changed your name twice that century.

10a. Built a large tub out of wood and nailed it to a slope, ran engines underneath: children, worms and water inside.

11. The infant chickadees clustering in the ceiling cracks, then falling and twisting on your bed.5

12. Your thumbs sewn to my thumbs, you asked, or our thumbs sewn to ourselves?


1I love how your pharmacy sparkles, difficult, like a math problem made of broken butter knives.

2Must you lick the grass down on all fours, your tongue a quick sickle, like a poorly dressed lizard?

3Stole through the pantry window, hid the grains under your pillow, in your hair.

4Wicked machines, until those tines found a home under your skin, your tongue.

5The smallest barefoot one, the dirty mouthed, with a name like a wheeze, a stiff, moist breath.