Rosemary Sullivan (1947-)
A Child's Alone
1In the photographs the reporters took
2the others have closed their eyes;
3only hers are open, stare into blankness.
4She's inside her head rehearsing
5the day her mother came to get her,
6the day she watched her brother
7punch her mother in the face,
8screaming, "You bitch."
9She'd heard her father use that word.
10Mothers were bitches when they left
11and you hit them.
12If only they'd stop flashing lights in her face.
13("You're daddy's an important man," grandma said.
14"People want to see us.")
15But she mustn't speak to them.
16"We have to be there for daddy. He needs us."
17They were walking through deep snow
18making empty holes with their feet.
19She couldn't feel her body
20hidden inside the cape she wore
21so people wouldn't see her.
22They are going to the big building
23they call the court. She wonders
24if her father lives there.
25He hasn't been home six months,
26since the day the policemen
27stopped the car and took him.
28She sits in the front with grandma
29and the man who talks for her father.
30Her brother is there too.
31He squeezes her hand when they bring him out
32and put him in the box.
33He looks so big. His face is angry
34till he sees her and the smile cracks it.
35She wonders what she did.
36When he put her on the horse at the ranch
37and told her to be brave
38she knew she mustn't show the fear
39that sat in her throat.
40She tried to keep her mouth closed and swallow.
41It wouldn't stay inside and she cried.
Online text copyright © 2004, Ian Lancashire for the Department
of English, University of Toronto.
This poem cannot be published anywhere without the written consent of Rosemary Sullivan or Black Moss Press permissions department.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services,
University of Toronto Libraries.
Original text: The Space a Name Makes (Toronto: Black Moss Press, 1986): 51. PS 8587 .U52 S6 Robarts Library
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2004
Recent editing: 1:2004/7/15
Other poems by Rosemary Sullivan