Five years old, my mother never expected
Her father as the stranger he always warned about,
The nefarious kidnapper loitering outside the school
Or in a slow car at a shady turn in the road,
Just waiting for her to let down her guard.
But when he dragged her off it was up the stairs
Of her own home, taking the fear in eyes
For admission, shutting her up in her room
Where she wept too proud for hours, a dollar
The price of her freedom, the one he claimed
She stole. Girl of the mild eyes, girl of the pounding
On her own thin door like a heart
Against its bony cage, who else would save her?
It was cruel and unusual punishment, a trial
Of wills, and also banal, a trifle,
One of those neglected stories of neglect,
No more than a bad day, a pittance
From the wage of a life. But for her
It demanded all that was fiercely innocent
And sovereign inside her, never to be repaid,
The real riches her sense of what was true
And right in the world, which was in fact the world,
And the gentle father in his dark house
She’d give anything to get back again.