The Girl (Whose Mother Filled Her Belly With Meth & Let Terrible People Mutilate Her Body Before Killing Her) Runs Away

Poetry / Jennifer Givhan

for Victoria

1.
She does not immediately want you to read her story on the front page of the newspaper at the Walgreens on Universe & Paradise where you’re refilling your living girl’s prescription & buying your girl       safe       a bottle of crystal blue Gatorade       She wants you to keep your eyes on your girl       playing hopscotch across the automatic doors opening & closing & opening       She wants you to pick up a yellow umbrella to notice the inky splotches of sky forming behind the hills in the distance She wants you to remember those hills are volcanoes       that they are sleeping       & sleeping things wake up

2.
When you step into the shower that night       you admit you did look down at the counter & saw two women with their arms upraised       You thought it harmless to keep reading       You’ll never know who those women are who needed comforting       Because the caption said what it said about the mother & what she let her boyfriend do       because you’re hyperventilating against the tile       the girl shampoos your hair & sings       Her song sounds like the one you taught her       for gathering yourself from the drain like hairs       like colorful strips of paper for the collage you’ve never stopped working on       She tells you her plan       It is so smart       she is so smart       You smile as she dips your head back into the warm water and rinses the soap from your eyes       It doesn’t even sting the way she does it       She promises she will check on you while you sleep & shows you the light       She promises she will run toward it       past the ditches rusting       in the empty desert stretch behind your house       & because you didn’t write the story & because she didn’t want you to—

3.
you believe her

Jennifer Givhan is a Mexican-American poet from the Southwestern desert. Her books include Landscape with Headless Mama (Pleiades Editors Prize) and Protection Spell (Miller Williams Series, U of Arkansas Press). She’s received NEA and PEN/Rosenthal Emerging Voices fellowships, The Frost Place Latin@ Scholarship, and The Lascaux Review Poetry Prize. She is Poetry Editor at Tinderbox Poetry Journal.