What I Could Not Take

By Erin Redfern

I didn’t sneak through a side door. I didn’t leave a note.
I did it so fast that, had you been next to me in his marble kitchen,
you would have thought I was still there.

When I left the abuser—I will not call him mine
I switched a lens. I saw what he did. The last was a little thing,
his making fun of how I wanted to call my dad. A misstep. I thought it,

and clocks remembered their ticking, windows their view.
When I left, I did not take my hairbrush or work shoes
or the green girl I’d been. I did not take

the rabbit peeing down the sides of her cage
because the litter box full of shavings
was the only soft place she had to rest.

And I did not take his nine-year-old in skating skirts,
poking her cavities with a toothpick at breakfast
while no one ever called a dentist—girl so used

to being in his bed I had to lock the door against her.
What I could not take, I left. And woke, walking
between railroad tracks over an open plain,

the sleepers turning to salt as I stepped, a clean wind filling
the raised pillar of my body.
I was not good, or pure; I lived.

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.

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