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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