for Gregory Johnson
Stirring your tomato soup counter clock-
wise I saw a tear sneak out of your eye,
the first I noticed from a boy not socked
in the jaw on the playground.
Next door, lies
sifted through the walls like powder sugar
covering your ginger skin, promising
she would not spend
the school day at Deb’s bar
again, come home around three stumbling
over third grade friends assembled for juice,
orange or apple, neither after she
started swinging. You laughed, called her footloose
fancy free, just misguided or
with the way you tucked your shirt corners in;
awkward, sloppy, an unforgiven sin.
Refuge was in our house where my mother
fed you, cookies, soup, and vitamin D
milk, not the instant kind that would bother
your stomach. She’d pat your back, a decree
that this horrible thing never happens
here in the duplex knotted against yours,
where the children were
scarred silent by then.
The hanging threat of violence devoured
our air. A man’s going to beat the hell
out of you little girl, she’d say, meaning
just like my father had done to her, cell
by cell of her body.
Then your leaving
floored me. Why go back? She’s my mother, you’d
say walking out, and somehow I understood.
Denise R. Weuve’s work appears or is forthcoming in Carnival Literary Magazine, Emerge Literary Journal, Gutter Eloquence, RipRap, San Pedro River Review, and South Coast Poetry Journal. She teaches English and Creative Writing at a high school where she laments why she is always voted most sarcastic teacher and never most sardonic. For the record vanilla chai tea is a good reason to wake up tomorrow.