I packed only the essentials,
laid them all out in front of me.
My tiny stuffed kitty, three nickels,
assorted lego pieces for protection,
fruit snacks shaped like sharks and monsters.
My small gummy worm fingers dropped
them into my baby blanket, yellow softness
and drenched in my smell.
I dashed to my dorm and threw
essentials into a plastic bag.
Underwear, shirts, phone charger, baby blankets
still steeped in my smell, the tiny kitty too.
I had bruises etched into my collar bone
and was still bleeding between my thighs.
He’d had me for three months and no one knew.
The bundle was light and easy to
tie up on the broken stick I’d
found in the yard. I was
a 1930s runaway, ready to jump
into a boxcar and head to California.
I’d run to my aunt, the woman with
the same lips as me, the same
little rosebud smile and auroral eyes.
No one knew how his hand covered
my rosebud lips and stole the
glow from my eyes. No one
could see the Dahlia grin bleeding
its way to the surface of my cheeks
every time he touched me.
It was time to run.
I slung the stick across my shoulder
and marched to the end of my driveway,
the orange September glow blazing.
Suddenly she called my name.
She started to smile as she walked to me
but saw my determined brow and faltered.
Oh Emma, I’d never let you leave home, baby.
You’ll always have my arms to hold.
I drove into the November chill and
called the woman whose arms
were always there even
when I pushed away the most.
Three hours and I’m home, mom,
I’ll need a hug when I arrive.
Oh Emma, I don’t want you home.
I know what you’ve been doing and
you’re not welcome here.
We sat in the family room and ate
cherries until our fingers smiled red.
She unpacked my bag and
wrapped me in my baby blankets.
He was sitting in the dorm room
when the key jammed its way in the lock.
He sliced my bag from my hands.
He ripped my baby blankets.