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Childhood

                                    Holly Virginia Clark


To jump from the attic window, I knew,
would not kill me but leave me tangled,
broken, unable to stand, which is why
I liked to sit in the sill, my feet hanging
over the variegated world
of the front yard: the wild strawberry
bordering the drive, the stone wall passing
behind the pines, and the top branches
of the oak with its warted yellow leaves.

There’s always the echo of malice
in the mind and, under that, a small
unaskable question, two voices
arguing about wanting to disappear
and wanting to be found, wanting, above all,
to be missed. Sunday afternoons, I’d watch
the sparrows from the window ledge—away
from the rising, fat-seared wafts of seasoned
meat on the griddle downstairs, the fresh-cut
sweat of onion, the starch-heavy steam—as if

I could live in the comprehensible
history of the cool, cardboard-musked attic,
the mown-lawn air of the open window, where
my name would not be called to put the knives
on the table. As if the rupture and roil
of the kitchen were not what I came from, as if
the meal itself would not conquer the house.


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