i don’t belong here

in the dream
i have a thick black beard and hair

in real life
i have a greying beard and shaved head

in the dream
i trim too much of the beard and then shave everything

in real life
i wake anxious as always but check the mirror any way

a couple mornings a week
i transfer my grandchildren
from their mother to daycare

these children only about 2 and 4
live a life on constant shuffle
that my granddaughter rebels against

she begs for the brick house where i live
each time i strap her into the car seat
destined to another home that loves her

the morning after the black hair dream
she begins to scream and cry as i carry her
“i don’t belong here” reaching back to my car

i am much too old and anxious
for a four-year-old in existential crisis
on this spinning planet always in orbit

as i drive away with her crying on the couch
i check the rearview mirror again just in case
the person i was in the dream looks back at me

—P.L. Thomas