Animal sounds exploded
from my parents’ room late at night.
From the bottom bunk, I could
hear my sister’s breathing, quiet
and steady as my own.
I covered my head with a pillow
and waited for it to be over, for the sounds
to stop. He’s going to crush her,
I thought. I waited to hear my mom’s voice
or her footstep, light, in the hallway.
She never came.
My father walked heavy
to the bathroom, running water, coughing.
No mom. She was still
alive in the morning, but tired. The circles
had purpled under her eyes.
Today I can see her then,
eyes turned to the ceiling, searching
for some pattern, waiting for the light
to come. She is holding her breath,
being forced against the sheet,
mattress springs in her back.
Where was it before her?
Where is he taking her and when
will he get there?
Her face has turned
toward morning drifting through
the window. Maybe she is waiting for me
to save her, to meet her in the bathroom
to nurse her wounds.
I would lick her clean if I could I would
carry her in my mouth and deliver her
to my bed to hide. I would hold her
and kiss her and let her sleep in peace.
-- April Salzano