Soft and Worn
My mother had a heart as soft and worn as the brown leather belt
she used when beating red welts deep into my back and ribs.
It got that way from her father revving the car engine over her
kindergarten pleas and from the fuzzy recollections of the taste
of her grandfather’s very long hugs and cherry-tobacco kisses
while her grandmother donned lace gloves and pretended
grocery shopping had to be done every afternoon. Most of all,
there were my father’s brown eyes, long gone and refusing
to just come home, seen in mine whenever I stared her down.
My mother’s heart was soft and worn and snapped like a whip
across my back and ribs, leaving marks so deep and red
there was nothing left to do but clench my fists and forgive.
by Danny Earl Simmons, first published in Shadow Road Quarterly
Editor’s Note: Two line stanzas carefully control the emotional impact of the narrator’s pain. By the end, however, the reader can’t help but recognize that there is no controlling this trauma.