Four Letter Word.


I took those stairs every day

and used my imagination.

they stretched up and over like an iron hilltop

above pits of trash and fragile patches of grass,

abandoned train tracks, the weathered graveled path

in a silent part of New York City.

What was I to do when this was the quickest way home

so I marched up and down every day

and held my breath for no reason because most days I was safe.

Most days I was safe except

the Once

when I wasn’t.

I knew these things happened in daylight

in suburbs

in households

in college

in pre-schools.

Every day I would imagine

new ways for it to happen

then I’d reach the other end

and forget all about it.

I’d forget all about it

and resume my breathing

until the Once

when I just couldn’t.

I could barely think a thought,

my imagination had turned off,

I saw, the images were there

but they were strung together wrong.

And before my mind woke up,

my body bathing in sunlight,

I felt a stab of sweet relief-

how could this ever happen twice?

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