She might as well have been a feral child,
mother howling like a wolf in moonlight
turning tricks for cigarettes.

She may as well have been a feral child,
lusted after and teased, uncombed, unfed,
other addicts’ children always sleeping in her bed.

Wild, as running in alleyways and yards,
wild, as stealing in every store, mother yelling “more,”
wild as a spanking, not knowing what for.

Any fool could see she never showed up at school,
yet no one called “no phone,” no one went to “no house,”
no one counted “one child,” missing.

Grandparents fought with lawyers and judges
for access and custody, visiting rights wronged,
any address, any notification, praying for proof of life.

Boyfriends jostled children whose parents were stoned.
Stray cats came and went, loved well;
tragedy fell. Grief followed, heart hollowed.

Sports for the spoiled: uniforms, schedules.
She watched from the bushes, envious,
crawling under bleachers for leftover pizza.

Wild eyes, an artist in sand, a gymnast in Pan:
drafted for a horror film that gave her nightmares,
too-long-delayed pay locked in a “trust” fund.

Who’s your daddy? And who’s your mom’s daddy,
who left you to this? What social worker libertine
has prevented any kin from finding you?

Your mother could not see past her gate,
late with the rent, late to sleep and rise,
too late, too late, to know she had a child.


© Ruth Hill

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