Monday, January 21, 2008

At the risk of scaring you off...


I stand against the school's brick wall,
waiting for my ride.
It's winter, Saturday afternoon.
I'm ten.
Others twirlers and tap-shoe wearers
rush out to their cars to head home.
"I don't need a ride, thanks! My dad is coming."
"Are you sure? It's so cold out there!"
"Yup. Thanks anyway! My dad's picking me up."
The heavy door locks behind me,
the school asleep until Monday.

I wait.
It's bitter cold.
Where is he?
I sing,
Practice standing on one foot, then the other.
Do a few jumping jacks.
Trace the grout of the brick with my mitten.
The moisture inside my nose becomes a frozen, needly web.
I chew on the inside of my cheek, suck my dry lips.
Where is he??

My eyes tear from the icy wind,
a frozen sheen covers my cheeks.
Fingers that an hour ago nimbly twirled a baton
are now clenched inside my mittens; crippled by the cold.
I shiver in my threadbare coat and hand-me-down boots.
I'm afraid.
Where is he??
I stamp my feet,
Clap my hands,
Adjust my scarf,
Swallow tears.

Strangers in warm cars pass by.
He'll be here soon.
I count the cars.
He'll be here after the third car that goes by.
After the next red car that goes by.
After the tenth red car.
Where is he??
Daddy, please come and get me...
I'm only ten.

Whenever the weather gets this cold (zero degrees, with below-zero wind-chill), I can't help but remember the time my dad sat in a bar and forgot to pick me up from a baton-twirling class. I don't remember how I ever got home that day. I only remember the bitter cold and my desperate fear...and that I was only ten.


  1. Wow. Amazing post-- poignant and beautifully written.

  2. Aww, what a sad memory. My husband got left at a gas station for 40 minutes when he was nine. I can't even imagine how that would feel. He laughs about it - such an easy going guy. He knew they'd be back for him so he just made himself comfy. Doubt my kids would do that?! BTW, they just thought he was asleep in the back. After 20 minutes on the road I suppose his brothers finally decided to let mom & dad know:)

  3. Oh you poor sweet kid. This makes me think about my Mother-in-Law who went to town with her daddy when she was five. He left her all day in a five and dime store while he went drinking in a bar. All day. Anyone who tells you alcohol is not a drug is in denial or hasn't lived with it.

  4. I LOVE poetry, and this is very well-done.

    And yes, the bitter cold reminds me of my own "out in the cold" story.

    "I'm only ten" is just heart tugging.

    Lovely imagery.

  5. Loved it, Sis... that's a story I haven't heard you tell, but appreciate you sharing. Once again, beautifully written.

  6. The potter's heavy finger.
    I'm glad you were able to post it.
    Your stronger than you think.

  7. Isn't it strange how things (just regular things like the very cold) triggers memories?

    It seems strange to say this but it's comforting to know there were other little girls that went through similar things as me...



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