No Most of the Time

By Nick Reading

Featured art: A Rat in Its Natural Habitat by Ellie Sinclair

Your son’s hand is in the shark bowl again
so you say no. Your daughter wears the potty

as a hat. Say no. He lists feces on the wall.
She rehearses a song about it all complete

with refrain. No. You say no when pots
and pans become soldiers’ helmets

assaulted by whisks and wooden spoons.  
No to everything else for dinner and yes

to pigs in a blanket and ice cream baths.
And no more, Can we afford it?

Can we live on the beach? Can we
live forever? No. No to windows broken

and bow and arrows in the apartment.
When they ask if we call it home now

say, Do you know that Starlings often nest
in chimneys? They say yes.

And yes to the dragons outside. Yes
to cutting holes in walls for stars. Not

every night but when the weather’s nice.
And if it’s true that ghosts fart. Yes.

When they ask if tomorrow means
today is all over you have to say yes.

When your son reveals his wish
to know if flying is fun, say yes.

When your daughter is piloting
too near the sun again, say yes.

And if any of this life, if any day
could be any different, say no.

Nick Reading is the author of Love & Sundries (Split Lip Press) and The Party in Question, winner of the Burnside Review Chapbook Contest. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in many journals including American Poetry Review, Twyckenham Notes, Cortland Review, Painted Bride Quarterly and jubilat. Visit him at

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