A dozen years in seasons of days
sweeping light across the girl-child's
eyes unaccustomed to the night.
A kind of wisdom. (I dream of her
in the dark, my darkness, a stage.)
Slight, stooped, dusty, bare feet worrying
the roots of tumbleweeds and fruited bramble
growing in spurts, untended. Father
a conquering hero, liar and cheat,
gone for good. Mother spending time
waiting on men, waiting on tables
in a greasy cafe, the sorceress still,
dyed hair piled high as a crown upon
a furrowed brow. Passion spent in a rush
like the nouveau riche spend: all fleece and rubies.
In the end there's nothing for the kid
but spidery afternoons alone
imagining desire, throbbing
and hot as a black widow's bite,
consuming her flesh against her will.
originally published in Mississippi Valley Review, Spring 1994