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How Many Times

No matter how many times I try I can't stop my father
from walking into my sister's room

and I can't see any better, leaning from here to look
in his eyes. It's dark in the hall

and everyone's sleeping. This is the past
where everything is perfect already and nothing changes,

where the water glass falls to the bathroom floor
and bounces once before breaking.

Nothing. Not the small sound my sister makes, turning
over, not the thump of the dog's tail

when he opens one eye to see him stumbling back to bed
still drunk, a little bewildered.

This is exactly as I knew it would be.
And if I whisper her name, hissing a warning,

I've been doing that for years now, and still the dog
startles and growls until he sees

it's our father, and still the door opens, and she
makes that small oh turning over.

—Marie Howe

from The Good Thief, 1988
Persea Books, New York, NY

Copyright 1988 by Marie Howe.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. from The Good Thief. Copyright 1988 by Marie Howe. For further permissions information, contact W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Marie Howe (1950- ) is the author of three poetry collections, including The Kingdom of Ordinary Time: Poems (W. W. Norton, 2008). Howe has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, Columbia, and NYU. 

Learn more about Marie Howe at The Poetry Foundation.