We were five in a plaid dress with a sash and a little white collar.
We were nine, it was after school in the garage, the smell
of motor oil and cut grass through the open window,
We were twelve, fourteen, and sixteen in our own beds, in seersucker pajamas,
the rain pelting down and running through the gutters.
It was a neighbor, a priest, a stranger, our father, our mother.
It was every day. It was when he got drunk.
It was before our class trip to the state capitol. When our mother
was in the hospital giving birth. Just once.
We were left for dead.
We were barely scratched.
We were round in a coal bin, so wild they couldn't catch us to wash, to comb our hair.
We lay at the bottom of the stairs. We found ourselves
looking down from a corner of the ceiling.
We found ourselves out in the limb of the maple tree,
in the night sky, up in the stars, where it was cool and there was so much empty space.
We found ourselves in our own beds. It was morning
and our clothes were laid out neatly on the chair,
our mothers prompting us to come for breakfast
We told an English teacher with straight brown hair
clasped at the nape with a silver barrette.
We told our mother who slapped us once across the face and dosed herself like a fist.
We told by carving our skin like a pumpkin.
We never told
We slept clutching a plaster statue of the Virgin Mary.
By day, we couldn't concentrate. The long division
on the blackboard smeared in our minds.
We memorized everything. Our handwriting
an exact replica of Palmer cursive, only smaller.
We ate to erect a bulwark. We wouldn't eat.
We didn't want bodies. We didn't want to be part of the
food chain. - eater or eaten.
We took enough pills to kill a horse.
We were in coma for a month. And emerged in rage.
We smiled. We smiled. We were drunk
the first six years of our daughter's life
We held our son's hand over a candle.
We somehow knew how to mother. That
gave us joy.
Deciding to heal was a choice. The first one
Once, we held out one fingertip to a woman with kind eyes
The Courage To Heal