Survivors of Child Abuse Support Group

 

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Survivors of Child Abuse Support Group

 

Tuesday evenings I can’t think of my baby

or the current between us

more elemental than love,

switches my milk on,

wetting the shirt

under my buttoned blazer.

My job is to listen

as people unknot the past.

 

The guy who constantly flirts,

his smile sugar white,

admits to road rage. Others

laugh in recognition,

their cars monsters too.

 

A young mother,

chandelier of dreads shaking,

mocks overheard endearments

like “Precious” and “Sweetie Pie,”

the same names I call my baby.

 

An older woman, beautiful

and resolutely friendless, agrees.

Affection shown children in public

sickens her. At home

kids are tied in the attic

or locked in a dog cage.

She knows this for sure.

 

Then Wilson speaks up,

says he feels good.

He’s taken his stove apart,

cleaned filth under and behind.

Wilson’s father dragged him from bed

to scrub for hours, sometimes his tongue

the rag. Or dragged him to the basement

to menace more than his tongue.

 

Empathy rises from Wilson

freely as other people sweat.

He and his wife cared for foster children

from the time their own sons were small.

Wilson kept the house clean,

took them to church, taught them the secret

of balancing a two-wheeler

(keep pedaling, that’s right),

but his sons became angry strangers.

Since the divorce they don’t speak to him at all.

 

He now knows

through all those years of dinner together

and homework done neatly,

older boys carrying hurt too large to contain

tormented his children in their own beds.

Wilson, his hands raw from scrubbing,

smiles as he says softly,

The stove is spotless.

Everyone in the circle of folding chairs

nods, understanding.

 

Laura Grace Weldon

Recently published by Literary Mama.  Find more poems in my collection, Tending.

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