A small brick house that could not be blown down,
not by wolves, by crooks, or hurricane fights.
Windows dark, curtains drawn.
In his cave of television reruns, dim smoke. She froze
when her toes edged the room’s pitch black, then bolted
up the stairs to her bedroom each night.
Her stepfather thought a child of his own blood
would be cleaner. No other child came. No matter.
He could teach her to dust, polish
floorboards by hand. She could be worthy,
but was not. Next lesson, bathroom in the basement.
Swabbing up stains from his dribbling pee.
Alone was best. To wade in the creek
up to her chest, water’s cold fingers.
Gentle current. Silently walking
on wet limestone. All sounds drained away against
the bright glint of rocks, clamoring cold.
A moment to float.
She peered into her face
holding a small compact of shadows. Cerulean,
like the most inescapable parts of the ocean.
When he came home, he said, “Stop
acting like the whore you are.” Her mother
handed her a washcloth, hid
the compact for another day.
She stepped into the kitchen, wanting
a glass of water. He stormed
down the hallway towards her.
Coal-colored body, blotted by light.
He was wearing only boxers, meat tenderizer in his hand.
The late summer leaves were cups
of sunlight, bellies of green. The world swelled
like an egg about to explode.
It hurt her eyes to see the young rabbit, color of seeds,
crouched on the hill. Ready to freeze,
hide, or beat the ground and run. Then the shotgun slam
of the farm house door. Blink, the rabbit was gone,
just a rustle and weave, clanging lilies-of-the-valley and weeds.