For my own good mother cracks me
on the face, sends me
into the meaty arms of my stepfather— the one who usually
but today returns me with a backhand.
I scramble beneath
the dining room table,
the one reserved for special
occasions. I study his scuffed oxfords, her tired feet
in frayed flats. The three of us hushed, panting.
If you could have seen me you’d have thought, pathetic, a girl crouched
like that only I was hard
and still as a blade.
In the kitchen the 12-speed blender,
beat and grate, listened.
We froze like that. A family portrait—
the one where our faces ached from smiling
at the perfectly browned bird,
Cold Duck chilled
in the Frigidaire,
and the red and green Jell-O-mold
quivered. How to say he threw me back. He helped
flush me out.
He yanked an arm, and she a…
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