The Animal 

 

The Animal walks

on the hot sidewalk barefoot

 

It wears a sundress

with straps that tie into bows

 

on each shoulder, and it steps

over branches that have fallen

 

to the road. A stick pierces

through the meat of the Animal’s

 

foot, and it yells out for someone

 

else’s mother to help it, sings

a song to mend the broken

 

skin. The Brother rides by

on his bike and laughs.

 

            *

 

The Animal wakes and thinks

it dreamed of the Hello Kitty Store.

 

It smells food in the kitchen,

but isn’t sure where

 

the kitchen is. At the foot

of the couch where it slept—

 

empty beer cans and the Uncle—

still sleeping.

 

            *

 

When it first notices

blood on its panties

 

it is disturbed that

it isn’t red.

 

Instead a thick 

brown clotted mess falls

 

out, and The Momma

says to get a pad.

 

The Animal fears

that everyone can

 

smell it. It takes

longer and longer

 

to finish a bath.

 

            *

 

A girl from school

asks it to play sex.

 

They roll around

on her bed. One

 

is the boy

and one is the girl.

 

            *

 

At a party The Uncle pins

it down to play.

 

He says it looks

too much like

 

The Momma. This is

the night it hears

 

Abbey Road

for the first time.

 

           

 

            *

 

In the middle

of the night, The Animal

 

hears The Uncle

ask The Momma what

 

her bra looks like.

Outside in the van,

 

The Daddy sleeps

off too many beers.

 

The Animal is stuck

on the couch, head

 

under the covers,

listening to them

 

kiss. In its head

it sings the entire

 

medley from the

second side of the record.

 

            *

 

 

The Animal pulls

the stick from its foot

 

slowly. A woman

from across the street

 

brings it her slippers

to wear. It walks

 

home struggling

to keep them on,

 

blood seeping

through the sole.

 

            *

 

There is a wild

dog following

 

The Animal home

from school.

 

The dog smells

the musty blood

 

between The Animal’s

legs. When it weaves

 

the dog weaves, so it stops

still and just waits. 

Erin Carlyle, 2020, Driftwood Press