In the frame over my bedroom door
the notch where they dislodged
bore witness to
the shot that
could have killed
my little sister.
of a gouged out eye
until we moved to the country and
the house was abandoned and razed.
three birthdays before—
I had learned how to walk with the night.
Skint kneed tree scaler,
there wasn’t much that scared me,
but darkness was latching hold.
The cure, my father announced at supper,
was for me to brave the block—
Stalwart little rabbit that I was,
I scattered into full panic
only after rounding the first corner—
drowning in a blaze of street lights.
But when I finally slowed
the thunderous buzz
faded into a song of soft cicadas
and I surfaced,
felt my strong legs walk themselves home.
Good that I claimed it when I did,
that interlude of fearless innocence—
for then it was
The bullet year.
.30-06 in Memphis.
.22 in L.A.
.38 through the front window of our home
where my sister had just been scolded
for jumping on the bed—
her little body a self-propelled projectile that
so easily could have intercepted
the shot of the
five-time wife beater,
released that week from jail.
The one Daddy made sure was put away.
The one that promised his day would come.
Unlike the tragic abstraction of
Kennedy and King,
his was the bullet
that taught me
the broad open daylight darkness
in the wretched hearts of haters and fools.
The ones who couldn’t hear
the soft cicadas.
Who never made peace
with the night.
They never made peace
with the daytime either—
but I won’t let them
[Check out Ellen Malphrus’ back porch interview]