My mother said, Pack your
bags. Your father doesn’t want us
here anymore. He had beat
my brother. I was the mistress. We boxed
what we could. The summer and the wet
heat. My brother cried. My hands. How little
they could carry. The callus on my pointer
finger. It could peel and be soft
again. My brother’s bruises. Father
was driving. He didn’t stop when he pushed my brother
from the car. I ran to him. How soft
my belly was after sleep. When my father
touched me, I flinched. I didn’t but wanted
to learn how. Later, I was raped. I didn’t scream.
My brother stopped talking and I knew
why. When I cut into my skin, no one asked. I dyed
my hair. I was raped on a dorm floor.
On the uptown subway platform. The wind rushed, knocked
breath into me. I had stopped breathing. I kept
breathing when I wanted to stop. I screamed
at my mother at the top
of the stairs. She wanted to know where
I had been. She didn’t want to know. When I was 3,
she held my head in the crook of her arm while
reading to me. She was warm and soft and felt
like bread dough. My father said she was a failure
and he my parachute. I drifted
from her. She had held me. She let go.
He pushed me naked from his lap. I ran as far
as possible. I kissed a beautiful
girl. I wanted to be a man. She invited me into her
mouth. Her tongue gave soft passage. At home, the backscratcher
was a stick. A whip. It was You will listen to me. It left
proof that I existed. I never existed. I let him push me
down. Father. The student in the dorm. The man
on the subway platform. The beautiful
girl said, “No, there. To stay you must
kneel.” And I did. She pushed me down.
I held her to my chest filled with birds. She
left. Returned to a girlfriend. I threw a glass against
the wall. It all shattered. My brother
was rocking. We were packing up. Moving
out. Someone was singing. I didn’t die. I died
slowly. I locked the door until
every voice was silent.
by Terri Muuss
Editor’s Note: Some poems reach in and tear your heart out. This is one of those poems.