Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fear 111: my face on a milk carton

A latch key kid I'd head straight for the blinking machine: red:
push play : I'm going to kidnap Sarah became not unusual.  
When my parents got home, my adopted dad would prepare
the gun, teachers were phoned with the secret word--
strawberry, for anyone picking me up from school.
(I can tell you that now.)

At night I'd lock the front door eleven times-- up 
and out of bed: that journey of heart pound 
down stairs again and again: terror plagued
those years, years after we'd left him, changed my name,
never sit with my back to a window.

Sometimes he'd call when we'd be home. 
Mom made me talk to him, though I didn't really 
want to, though he terrified me, though I hated him. 
He'd say, Tell your mom  I love her still. Tell her I love her.
Mom would listen as she stirred a hot pot, I'd wrap phone cord
tighter around my finger till the tip turned white.
Your father loves you, she'd say.

There is no data on how many children were saved by milk cartons,
but as a child the fear welled my face would one day
be on one. I hate/d milk; those faces haunted me. The rows
after rows of children stapled
on Walmart walls still get me.

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