Step

by Abigail Giroir

David Middleton Poetry Award
First Place

She sits across the table from me,
our mismatched faces marbled
blue in casted light—mirrored hallway—I am
everywhere I look. We’re two bird’s nests,
broken yolk, coffee milk, burnt
mauve stains on white porcelain rims—
I’ve always looked too much like
my father. But he was her doorless wall.
We are all windows.
Our suitcases, dented and unhinged and
overstuffed, lie in the shadows, waiting.

He skulks down the staircase, all hunched
mass in a Cabela’s baseball cap—fish hook on the bill—
unspeaking. Loud.
Slams her against the freshly painted walls.
His rage spits in my chest like starving flames—
fresh fed fire. She cowers where I once stood,
trembles the way I did—
seven-year-old mandible to
twenty-two-year-old shins.
She begs me to stay.
I beg her to go.

Her spine bent like starved flowers, feet
rooted to the floor—says, “He broke me” with a voice like
smoke. I take up my things, and she wraps
a piece of herself in old paper napkin,
packs it in with my healing wounds,
my fractured bones, a twenty-dollar bill.
I think if she keeps fading,
she’ll disappear completely,
but I close the door behind me
all the same.