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He swear three things: to not drink whiskey,
to stop calling her a mistake in front of other boys
and to start treating her
the way she look –
When she first sit down,
she lean too close. Baby pity duh missing chair leg
and jump up instead.
True fatha shoulda stayed. Ma-ma
cannaw tell cries from laughs.
Youngest one hide her mind from tall things.
Them, the dark, anything that
Never again. First pop out a tooth,
next a lock of hair. Girlie, she laugh and push ahead.
Feet stiff, he watch her trip over twirls
on her way to him. Oh,
she await Papa’s answer at any time.
Woman will sit on the man that
sit on a wound
til what inside it talk.
It’s been twenty years and you still
want to cover up the canvas.
During the first time in heels,
you puffed your chest out for emphasis.
As the usual, people stared
at the mother and her daughter’s growing behind,
marks of chocolate plumage.
A strut here, a strut there.
And it was almost the routine again:
play with the palette, give up your unruly,
slap on the rules.
Between drugstore aisles,
stilettos clanged against every inch.
I wondered: Couldn’t a duckling enjoy her color quietly?
You stopped short when I cupped the nail polish.
It would pull the shroud back
from your face and toward your hands again.
But it’s black, you cried. Black!
You grabbed the foundation, too light
for your cheek.
You held onto the sick powder.
I forced your hands to your side.
Your eyes stilled onto the sleeve of your sweater.
The smell of mercurochrome
hunted you on the way out,
through twenty years, til today,
the way everyone hunted dark birds
with their eyes
until they flew no more.
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