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T Returns to Atone for Molestation

Kathryn Hargett

It was summer, I think. Another drought had widowed

the cattails & wild wheat, dried the lake to hives.

I was nine, or ten maybe, flush with seed,

glands erupting into prepubescent down;

& this is why, when you returned, I revised

my shadow to fleck through curtains

auroral with morning’s grasp, ways I could

simplify this to a cadence, a tripwire.

I sat on the stairs as you hugged my mother,

feeling how far I could reach into my mouth,

how many fingers, to what depth.

I used to have this dream where I wielded

a steel bat like a cock: my tantrum, bloomed gray,

that I use to bash into solidity again.

Everyone is afraid of me. I am only vulnerable

to wisteria & asbestos. Look. Look how I danger.

I want to adore my body more than others,

other allegories for abuse I’d wear

like a child donning her mother’s bedsheets

& clambering, laughing, through a silent house

as she returns to her ancestral fog.

Come down, my mother said. Come down. Come visit with T.

I’ve tried to unlearn my inhumane things, my empty speech.

I worry this apology like a gemstone, thumbing

until your intrusions vanish as shouts into the day.

But your atonement: the basin where you float

on your back & I pour warm saltwater over you,

brush my palms against your forehead

until the years drain from our fingers. Tell me,

you gurgle. Tell me you’ll mean something one day.

In later dreams, I watch myself lilt

down these stairs swinging my steel bat,

watch myself raze the room until it leans in

to hear me speak—& for once, everything but me

will flinch. Look. Look. & when I raise my bat high

above you, I wake again to treefrogs meadowing

the backyard, milkweed & fringe trees wickering the carpet.

They spin my voice slow, your quiet residue:

this strange new moth, hungering in the light.

Kathryn Hargett, 18, is a 2018 YoungArts winner in Writing and attends the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her work has been recognized by Princeton University, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the President’s Committee on the Arts, the Alabama Writers Forum, the Poetry Society of the United Kingdom, and others.