And then I knew.
Because I asked an older friend.
I laid awake at night.
He was gone, two-thousand miles away,
I was afraid to write and tell him.
So I walked.
Down the hill to the mill pond,
Up past the grassy place where children played,
Knowing where to step.
So as not to fall over the tree roots,
Heavy and gnarled, breaking up the sidewalk.
Feeling the sweat on my face,
August ending in heat, sweat and fear.
Close to time for school again,
I didn't care.
I just wanted it to be not so.
For one little prayer to be answered,
I made promises to God,
But I guess they weren't the right ones.
I walked and passed the houses,
Of people with perfect lives,
Or so I thought.
Pure daughters living behind those doors,
Not stained and soiled like me.
I walked and prayed,
Mile upon mile,
Day after day.
He came home and then was gone,
Rejecting me..rejecting us.
I packed my books and tried to pretend,
And when I came home,
Each day after school, homework forgotten,
Hands over my belly,
Big, loose sweater,
Tears held back by the fear they'd be seen.
When I told them, my mother cried.
Then, with no asking for my wishes,
Told me my fate.
I had no hope, no one else to help.
I was gone for months.
I came home in the Spring.
Empty belly, empty heart,
Only the memory,
Of a warm, sweet little body in my arms.
Same old road, same old sidewalks, so I walked.
I still do that, on cool days,
When my heart is troubled.
Robin K. Westbrook