Leaving Home
Outside the pink bungalow
in Pleasure Ridge Park,
two men sat in a Thunderbird,
engine running. My father said
they watched the house the whole time.
In the living room, the tv was on.
I sat on a sofa against a green afghan
until she was ready for me.
Her husband drank a beer,
told me not to touch the shivering chihuahua.
“She’s got a mean bite,” he said.

Aunt Wanda’s husband
found this woman. His truck drivers
recommended her. My father, a good Catholic,
drove me there, just like he took me to confession
other Friday evenings, to tell my sins.
In her bedroom, pictures of grandchildren
cluttered the dresser,
white stockings hung on a wooden rack above
white shoes newly polished.
She had me lie on the double bed.

Opening my legs for her wasn’t easy.
She was hunched and burnt-looking.
Her whole face puckered toward her mouth.
She spoke with words like “dirty shame”
while she gave her absolution —
a small, white cloth inserted
into my womb. I wanted it to hurt.
It didn’t at first, not even the needle
she pushed into my thigh
while I watched my hand
curl and uncurl the pink chenille.

The first blood came before dawn.
My father went to work.
My mother watched tv.
I lay upstairs in my room
and thought of college
as rhythmic pains came.
I turned my crucifix to the wall
and soaked the sheets.
Just after lunch I passed the cloth,
some clots, some flesh,
then bundled it all in a clean towel
and lay on the yellow bathroom rug.
I will go away from here, I sang to myself,
I will never come back,
I will never come back.