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a girl child

two decades ago i took

an overdue trip to Central Ohio

introducing my former mother-in-law to her six month old twin grandsons

we got to talking about Kentucky

as all transplanted Kentuckians do

we bounced gurgling baby innocence on our respective maternal knees having our own little gossip social

curling wispy baby hairs in her worn fingers

her laughter turned to pained breaths

as she shuttered out

a mortifying truth

about a bluegrass upbringing

she was discussing how she had been repeatedly raped as a girl by her father in Hyden, Kentucky

ran away to something worse at 14

how her first marriage ended when she found her alcoholic unemploymed coal miner husband was molesting her two little girls while she was waitressing to support the jerk

fleeing north to Ohio with them

to single motherdom with three kids in the 1960s living in a car until she could afford a place to rent

tears streamed down

her withered cheeks

as she said

“A girl child isn’t safe growing up around a family of men in the South.”

20 years later i think of her words and the women in my biological family

four generations of women who tried to protect their genitalia from one family member

the irony of being expected to smile and pretend

give forgiving hugs

that i’m the one who doesn’t feel comfortable coming to the Thanksgiving table

not the man who couldn’t keep his hands to himself

3 replies on “a girl child”

Seriously, that was impactful and heartbreaking and just makes me want to write something angry. I’m glad to see your longer poems again, though nothing in this piece gives me gladness at all.

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