By: Erin Redfern
If he had just left our books open on the rug where we’d kissed
a little, but mostly done our homework,
if he hadn’t gone and sat in the pink toddler chair
behind the closet door she flung open, mom-radar pulsing, to find him
knees-to-ears and those size-thirteen clodhoppers clutched in his lap.
If she hadn’t pressed herself silent, then
walked out and drove off, leaving us to re-break the rule
about being alone in the house. If I hadn’t met him again the next day,
and the day after that, if she hadn’t rifled my room, my diary,
made his single mom come to our house where she screamed
in front of her and him and my dad, “He just wants to get in your pants!”
If for the next fifteen years I didn’t use men to test this hypothesis. If like a bewildered
I didn’t break myself on that rock, and do it again.
Then, our first night, I wouldn’t have signed myself over
in the old abdicating way, my body a quick illiterate “X,”
and waited to know how you’d bend me to your need,
and when you didn’t, when your unhurried hands
barely brushed the fine hairs without touching skin, over and over
until time pricked its ears, one paw suspended,
there would have been no slow wash of pain
as I reentered myself like blood does a frost-bitten limb,
and I would not have been able to go
all the way back, give the good dumb boy his shoes
and send him away, then turn at last to the waiting girl
and say there. There you are. I thought I’d lost you.
Erin Redfern’s work has recently appeared in Rattle, The Hopkins Review, New World Writing, and The Massachusetts Review. She earned her Ph.D. at Northwestern University, where she was a Fellow at the Searle Center for Teaching Excellence. She has served as poetry judge for the San Francisco Unified School District’s Arts Festival and a reader for Poetry Center San Jose’s Caesura and DMQ Review. She teaches poetry classes and workshops online.