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James Kirk

What I Shouldn't Tell You

In the blue eaves of my house, the torn rag
of a spider's web hangs from a nail
like a piece of Dulcinea's blouse, what's left of what,
days ago, I was tempted to call beautiful,
as I watched her spin, the almost perfect symmetry--
the artful design again stress and strain.

But last week when my wife's sister came over
I saw one of the other results of stress and strain giving out.
Dark blue scarf tucked under her chin, overcoat, dark sunglasses on
like a movie star hiding in public, all three kids piling
out of the van, scared, hungry, refugees
dressed like ordinary children, I knew

right away he'd done it again, what he'd promised not to--
he'd hit her, once in the mouth, again (gratuitous violence)
above the eye, she showed the fat split lip,
the blackened eye. I was shocked
only that it wasn't worse, his hands hang from his wrists
like roasts. For the kids

I could turn the TV on, make sandwiches, make our house
a halfway house for the day, a haven from fury,
a house half way to the police--consolation
by distractioon, the swing in the yard, the fort
in the trees. At dinner I've heard him
quote the bible and say fuckin' nigger in the same sentence.

And I've heard him recount, fueled by beer,
the awful details of dressing out a stag, the hoisting
it up by the hooves, the long incision you make
from lungs to anus so that all the entrails
spill clean out at once. And then he kisses the kids

and sends them off to bed--just like that.
What though, now, to do for her?
Not much really, listen, be a giant ear,
make coffee, spike it with cognac.
Since I began this I've noticed there's a small
butterfly's wing caught in the remnant of web--

black and fringed delicately with blue
like an expensive sympathy card.
They're back together again
and the bruise I imagine
him kissing has healed enough to let make-up
and a little rouge do the rest. It's late

in the day, late in the century
and suddenly the sun's just broken
from behind a cloud, and there is light, light
everywhere, garish, glaring,
and the only image I can come up with
is a young boy whose discovered his big sister

in the bathroom, unprepared for her first period,
the jeans on the floor soaked in blood--
the boy just standing there, frightened,
confused, staring, not a single idea
what in the world to do.

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