The girl runs faster
than the mother’s thick legs after her,
trusting her thin, mosquito-bit legs
slashing the air
like stilettos on tires
and does not look back
at the mother stopped, cursing
her from the street she dare not cross for fear
she will not know the signs
home. She waits for the girl
back home, just inside,
her first lash on those bare legs masked
by the slam of the screen door,
the next swipes their own hard cracks
until the girl slides under the bed
where her little brother
The cat-o’-nine-tails scrapes
cool linoleum, scratching
like cat’s claws, the girl thinks
Mama cannot reach us
here, cannot imagine all
our places to run or hide.
The brother pees his pants.
The girl pulls him closer,
lets her skirt soak it up,
and in its warmth they fall
asleep until the father’s heavy steps
and the rattling of milk bottles
left from his day’s route wake them.
They hear the mother
in the kitchen curse
the girl again in Cajun French,
bad girl, disobedient, refusing
even to let her poor brother out
from under the bed for supper.
The father drags a low chair to the bed,
bends to remove his sturdy boots
so close the girl can hear his teeth clench
even as he smiles at her,
then rises and answers the mother:
Tell me first. What you have made,
is it sweet, or bitter?
Joycelyn Trigg completed an MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop the same year she retired early from a career as an editor and communications director and moved from the South to Mendocino, California. In Mendocino, she is active in the local writing community, occasionally teaching in community venues. Her most recent publications include poetry in Talking River and forthcoming in Calyx and Minerva Rising.