My sister’s father wore steel-toed boots as mean
as a machine gun. Once, fences down
but full of current, the cows
gone to flowers, she and her dad, my mother and I
gave chase. The wild heifers ran free,
fearful as rioters. Far across the field, I saw
my nine-year-old sister step on a wire, collapse
to the grass, start to cry. Loathing the echo
of his own pain within her sob, her father started stomping on her
the way he once squished a pregnant mouse
in the oats, fetuses bursting
pink from its side. Face down,
all three hundred pounds of him
brought to bear through that boot
against her spine, she was supposed to shut up. She couldn’t.
Thirteen, I ran toward her shouting his first name,
his full name, getting closer and louder
the way a father handles a son
who won’t listen, commanding him to stop,
stop that right now, until the words
inverted us, his gaze furious against the authority in mine.
He froze. I was going to take
his daughter, bruised to the bone.
Was he going to defend his claim,
charge at me? I wasn’t ready to be a father. I was ready
to run faster than his fat ass could catch,
my daughter safe in hand, get to the road,
wave down anybody, show them
her back, his bootprints blooming purple,
winding around her vertebrae.
Instead, like a teenage bad boy
in a hit and run
with his dad’s waxed Camaro, he fled the scene.