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Saturday Afternoon At the Library

ISSUE:  Autumn 1985

I let him climb on my lap
because he wanted to be held
by a woman;
he’d lost three already
by the age of five.
His mother in a wreck
when he was a baby;
then his grandmother
who’d taken care of him;
and then
just last week
the stepmother, young,
with a child of her own.
She was a sweet thing
who read the self-help books:
Norman Vincent Peale,
How To Be Your Own Best Friend. His dad beat her
and was drinking up
most of their money.
Once he came home
and the roast was cold,
so he shot it off the table.

We sit in the quiet room.
What does the boy understand
of this? He knows
she and the child were gone
one day, when he and his dad came
  back from town.

He holds me tightly and says:
“I’m going to kill you.
I’ll shoot you
and cut you up in little pieces
and keep you in my refrigerator.”
I look at him and say:
“Don’t put me there,
I’ll be too cold.”
He says: “I’ll keep you
in my closet then.”
I say: “Closets are too dark.”
He giggles, slides down and away,
out the door.

And the boy just wanted
to be held close
to soft woman flesh
and loved. That was all he wanted.


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