For Girl X, Chicago
The first thing we took away was your name.
We erased the bleak shame from each syllable,
blurred the image of your tiny body broken into
network sound bytes, snippets of videotape
with a swollen face Xed out.
as in she is no longer a good girl.
as in two simple lines crossing
where a beating heart should be.
You were little, like we don’t want to remember.
You were stutter-folded, you were beaten liquid
on those lonely stairs, your skin was slashed,
you were raped with a fist and sticks, insecticide
sprayed into your seeing and down the tunnel of
your throat. He must have held your mouth open,
stretching the circle, leaving moons in your lip.
The violation left you blind and without tongue,
wrecked the new clock of you. You were jumprope
doubletime and pigeon-toed, navy blue Keds with
round toes and soles like paper, jelly sandwiches
and grape smash fingers, you, ashy-kneed rose,
missing rib, splintered and flinching through a
death sleep. In which direction do we pray?
To recreate you, they relied on ritual. Weeping
nurses gently parted your hair, the teeth of the
comb tipped in rubber, and dried blood showered
from your scalp like chips of paint. They rubbed
warm oil through the unraveling braids, threaded
ribbon through to the ends. We will give you back
your life by pretending you are still alive. Lowering
your X into a tub of warm water, they scrubbed
you with stinging soap, sang songs filled with light
and lyric, then dabbed you dry with those brutal
sickbed towels, avoiding the left nipple, smashed
before it began. They wrapped you in the stiff garb
of virgins and told you that you were healed, there
in that stark room of beeping machines and blood
vials and sterilized silver, they built you a child’s
body and coaxed your battered heart back inside.
X. The violation left. X
you blind and X voiceless
And they braided your hair every day, gently, the
ritual insane, strands over, under, through, over,
under, through, fingers locked in languid weave,
until the same of it all brought your voice back.
The nurses cheered, told you they’d found a cure
for history, that the unreal would refuse to be real.
Soon you’ll be able to see again, they whispered.
I know you never meant to be ungrateful, my rib,
when you rose up half and growled this grace: