I’m five. My brother is thirteen.
My mother is throwing plates at my brother.
She’s screaming, You think I’m a whore!
Red shards on the kitchen floor.
I’m six. Maybe I’m seven.
My mother is chasing my brother
with a butcher knife. I run upstairs. My father
sits in the living room, reading the paper.
I’m sixteen. My mother screams at my father.
She screams at me when I take his side.
She calls my friends if I’m not home by eight.
I don’t have dates.
She gets my father to look at houses in other towns
because girls in Massillon get pregnant.
I’m seventeen. My mother won’t go out alone.
She says Nazis are tapping our phone.
She won’t let me talk to my boyfriend
because he has a German name.
I ask my father to take her to Dr. Meck,
but my father says, Dr. Quack.
Did my father shrink like this at night, into himself,
clenched fist beneath the sternum?
Did he lie awake, dreading the persistence
of the clock? Hours after he’d left for work,
I’d find his bedclothes still drenched.
Sue D. Burton | The Headless Woman
Contents | Mudlark No. 60 (2016)