A CHILD'S ALONE - Digby Augustus Stewart Mackworth Dolben Poems

 
 

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A CHILD'S ALONE

In the photographs the reporters took
the others have closed their eyes;
only hers are open, stare into blankness.
She's inside her head rehearsing
the day her mother came to get her,
the day she watched her brother
punch her mother in the face,
screaming, "You bitch."
She'd heard her father use that word.
Mothers were bitches when they left
and you hit them.
If only they'd stop flashing lights in her face.
("You're daddy's an important man," grandma said.
"People want to see us.")
But she mustn't speak to them.
"We have to be there for daddy. He needs us."
They were walking through deep snow
making empty holes with their feet.
She couldn't feel her body
hidden inside the cape she wore
so people wouldn't see her.
They are going to the big building
they call the court. She wonders
if her father lives there.
He hasn't been home six months,
since the day the policemen
stopped the car and took him.
She sits in the front with grandma
and the man who talks for her father.
Her brother is there too.
He squeezes her hand when they bring him out
and put him in the box.
He looks so big. His face is angry
till he sees her and the smile cracks it.
She wonders what she did.
When he put her on the horse at the ranch
and told her to be brave
she knew she mustn't show the fear
that sat in her throat.
She tried to keep her mouth closed and swallow.
It wouldn't stay inside and she cried.