poem26 Jul 2020 06:35 pm
Albert Anker: Lesendes Mädchen (Cécile Anker) 12. September 1886

Beth Cato

the girl slips like a shadow 
through the cacophonous mob
along hallways where the carpet
is worn too thin to absorb screams

hurry, hurry, hurry
she needs to get home
she must find out what happens next

she flees through the gate
takes a shortcut across the yellowed lawn
even as a distant teacher howls,
"use the sidewalk!"
there is no time for sidewalks today

she dashes along the dry canal 
already host to upper-grade trolls
that reek like the perfume gauntlet
at the mall, only tinged
with cigarette smoke

they jeer the girl as they
inhale toxic fumes and drink
diet cola from a shared 2-liter bottle

the sole of her right shoe flaps
as she gallops down the dirt trail
through the eucalyptus tree windbreak
to find civilization and sidewalks again

the corner house is guarded
by a Chihuahua possessed by Cerberus
who every day yaps as he charges pursuit
while the old woman on the porch calls 
"he don't bite!" (he does)

the girl sprints across the apartment courtyard
with a hello wave to the unperturbed pigeons 
that congregate at the bird bath
filled with beer bottles and trash
her shoe farts with every stride
as she bounces up the stairs

she unlocks the door
with ninja stealth
mom sleeps on the couch
phone on her chest, pills on the table
same as when the girl left for school

in her bedroom, the girl
greets her stuffed animal army by name
as she flings down her laden backpack
without bothering to take off her shoes
she picks up the paperback that has
left her in dreadful suspense all day long
will the princess save the dragon?
and kill that awful knight?
he so needs killing!

maybe just maybe
she can make it through the next chapter
before mom bellows for supper
in the meantime
she wears both a crown and a sword

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