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.