by Julie Collar

When the men came to speak to my father


I was sent out into the garden.

I could hear the cold hissing in the cracks

of the concrete,

could feel its boldness,

how it longed to slip between my edges.


Hands buzzing like wasps,

I practised my skipping, counted steps,

the lash of the rope

on my calves only right,

only proper.


I looked out of my eyes

at the crumble-bricked wall,

the white rose

blooming still. Then


I rose up in the air and looked down

on myself.


As if I were the Angel in the painting, hovering.


As if I were the Virgin crouched in a heap in the corner.


I saw

the straight white scar of my parting,

saw my bunches bounce,

knees cold-mottled

above white socks. The fear

a series of yellow wavy lines

zigging from the dog-tooth

check of my duffle coat.


The smell of it nettles, the smell of it cat’s piss.


My father was in that room

alone with those men

with only my mother to protect him.


I did the only thing I could do –

I skipped,

my back to the French windows,

my arms raised out like wings.