Looking Through the Keyhole

John Mannone


Daddy, I saw you,
and I heard mommy, too.

                 Oh. We were just fooling around,
                we were. We made a lot of sound.

Is that why she’s bleeding,
Is that why’s she’s weeping,

                 On the dresser, she bumped her head
(or was it that nasty post of the bed?)

                Now, don’t you cry, she’ll be fine
I promise you, I not lyin’

But Daddy,
she has a lot of boo-boos on her arms
and pretty face! Are you sure she wasn’t harmed?

                 Yes, Sweetie,
                mommy’s very clumsy and she falls down a lot.
                I was just bending over to help her get back up.

 Daddy! Your hand! It’s bruised and colored red
and dark and wet, I’m sure it’s blood!

                 Er…yes. I was helping your mother up off the floor
                and, well, her blood got all over me, the walls, and door…
Were you looking through the keyhole?

 I didn’t mean to, Daddy, but I got scared,
I heard mommy scream, and I looked in there.

                 Settle down. Everything’s alright
Your mother and I did not have a fight.

 Alright. So you say. I’ll just calm down…
Will you play with me? I promise, no more frowns.

                Okay, later… maybe tomorrow.

No, Daddy, I mean right now.

                 Mommy’s sleeping, so… okay.
She needs to rest now anyway. I’ll play.

Thank you, Daddy, you’re a dear.
Now come and sit down next to me over here.

                 Okay. What’s next, Sweet Pea?

 We are going to have a tea party and drink some tea.


 Yes, Daddy, tea…

 I love this tea set
mommy got for me. She found it
in the attic along with grandma’s book—
a very special tea cookbook.

                Yes, I’m sure it’s charming.

Oh, so little do you know how charming!

Let me scoop this secret blend before it gets too late…
There… I’ll add a little water now, then we’ll have to wait.

                 <and we wait and we wait and we wait>

                 Not trying to be funny, but I’d rather have a beer
                and soon must go to check on momma dear.

No! Just wait another minute…
And here it is, my Daddy! Hot tea. I’ll pour it
into these pretty little cups…
Don’t burn yourself, Daddy, but bottoms up!
I made this blend especially for you:
chamomile, orange spice, and licorice root.

                 Okay, Sweetie, let me have a sip
                of your make-believe tea, now watch me tip
                this lovely plastic tea cup to my lips.

                I love the paisley pink and yellow blue
Yum, so good the herb and spice and licorice, too…
                But, but..whoo!

What’s the matter, Daddy? You look so pale.
I should’ve warned you not to drink so fast, or tell so many tales.


You don’t look too good, Daddy. Don’t you play pretend.
Did I put too many herbs and licorice in my invisible blend?
…Perhaps it was the hemlock.


Daddy! You spilled the tea on mommy’s new rug!
Did you bump you head?
Are you alive? I think you’re dead.

 Mommy told me last night
what she’s been wishing for (with all her might)… 

Of course I want to see her happy, not so blue,
so I simply made her wish come true.



John C. Mannone has work in Artemis Journal, Poetry South, Blue Fifth Review, New England Journal of Medicine, Peacock Journal, Gyroscope Review, Baltimore Review, Pedestal, Pirene’s Fountain, and others. He’s a Horror Writers Association Scholarship winner (2017), a Jean Ritchie Fellowship winner in Appalachian literature (2017) and served as celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). He has three poetry collections and has been nominated for the Pushcart, Rhysling, and Best of the Net awards. He chaired the Dwarf Stars Anthology (2019). He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex, Silver Blade, Liquid Imagination, and American Diversity Report. He’s a retired professor of physics near Knoxville, TN. http://jcmannone.wordpress.com