I’m the child you locked in.
Every afternoon and every Saturday morning. The child you said was fat, whose food you took away, who served you dessert but wasn’t allowed to lick the spoon.
I was that too-blonde, too-good, girl who was too afraid to touch Down There. Using allowance on 10 candy bars at a time, I’m the girl who got high.
Eating them one after another in a dim room, a sunny after-school afternoon, chocolate high. I never learned to vomit.
I am the woman who held you when you were dying. The woman who straddled the recliner where you lay,
your face yellow as mustard in your dying,
as you leaked blood from skin too thin to contain it,
I am the woman who said, “No! You will not take my mother out of this house.” You would’ve died screaming in agony in an ambulance, and for what? Because staff worried about a lawsuit? I guarded you, stood while my brother hid in the kitchen.
Later I heard an owl pair, that frigid December moonrise. I ran inside with my dogs, hollering, “Mom, mom! Owls!”
You looked at me one last time, the pull of the bond between us almost stronger than death. I felt useless and small.
Later still. Dogs barking—you had flown with them.
I am the woman who sat with you after, gently unclenched your hand to remove your rings, careful to give my brother the birthstone blue you got when he arrived. The center of your thin palm still holding small heat.
I am that woman. Your only daughter.
Forgiveness is not always possible, but I have no regrets when I think back to that night four years ago. You gave me my life. I had to learn to fight to live it.
Rachael Ikins is a 2016/18 Pushcart, 2013/18/19 CNY Book Award nominee, 2018 Independent Book Award winner, & 2019 Faulkner poetry finalist. She is author/illustrator of 9 books in multiple genres. She lives by a lake with her dogs and cats.
She is the Associate Editor of Clare Songbirds Publishing House, Auburn NY
You can read more of Ikins reading on Facebook