Red-faced, open-mouthed–a silent
scream in front of me–you press
your small hands to your sides.
At six, you live a pain so deep
you cannot speak or cry.
Breathless, between that tree
stump and the skaters circling
always on the pond,
you look hard
then turn inside,
knowing, now, my words and touch
can’t soothe all hurts away.
Outside, the snow is concrete
hard beneath my boots; the trunks
of giant leafless oaks are tall and
straight and thick, like iron bars.
The air is bitter cold and thin,
and daylight hurts my eyes.
Stopped in this cold, dry, winter cell,
while slate-grey clouds are slamming
shut the sky,
I live the pain I cannot ease
Grown six inches in a year,
I wear a black half-mask, a baseball
cap and denim, the pant legs riding
half way up my calves.
Alone, at each lit door
I hold my mother’s shopping bag
before me, bare my teeth and mumble
“trick or treat.”
At eight o’clock, the sidewalks
empty; chaperones and parents guide
their ghosts and witches home.
Alone beneath the streetlights,
my long-legged shadow haunts the night.
I am out of place in time
On Woodlawn Street, porch lights
go out; doors are shut; familiar living rooms
and hallways disappear.
Like angry ghosts,
window curtains gawk and grimace
at me; jack-o-lanterns glare.