The Last Time You Left

After the second trip to the car,
he locked you out
before you got
the rest of your clothes.

You had packed it all,
everything you could,
in one half hour.
It hurt your lower back
to cradle me in your left arm,
and drag that big
mustard yellow vinyl suitcase with your right.

You tried not to hear
his screams,
because you knew
you weren't a hoe, or a bitch,
or any other name
he could think of.

Once in the car,
you didn't bother with the seatbelt.
You pushed the gas pedal
as far down as it would go
and your heavy breathing screamed
AWAY AWAY AWAY
in harmony with our worn tires
along the New York State Thruway.

Your mother laughed
when you walked in the door,
your suitcase spewing panties
and that sweater
he gave you last Christmas.
She took me in her arms and you felt empty
because I was all you had.

Later, your father told you
to go back to him
because he was a good man
and he would take care of us.

That night you didn't cry
but stared at the smooth plaster on the ceiling
that you used to stare at
with big brown teenage eyes,
dreaming of knights in shining armor.

The next day, your friend Marge
called to say that he had spent the night
with one of his waitresses.

Jarrod Beck