My name braids images as a preverbal toddler.
My mother’s loving hands braiding red
ribbons in my hair. My bedroom a blue marble
across the hall from my parent’s room,
another planet. My small girl’s closet full of embroidered
blouses, eyelet dresses, and superhero underwear.
The dining room where my mother braided
loaves of bread and patchwork quilts with yellow
paisley wallpaper roping sunshine. My dimpled self
under the table, chairs, and my mother’s assured movements.
My name flits a mean bird from a bright braid
to a purple cavern. My name forces slippage
is what happens, when you can’t speak
the acts. I was too young until too late
to tell my mother what happened.
The babysitter, our neighbor’s niece,
her flesh parted the smell of onion and dried apricots.
The cruelty in how she parted and pierced me.
My own toys used for slick torture.
My name screams a hole in the air
the next time my parents try to leave me with her,
and my mother sends her home.
But once was enough to roughen textures
of my body, change my desires.
My body ripped open to a language
before my mouth could form a word.
My name teeters in the first-grade
schoolroom where the teacher warns us
against unwanted touching, an epiphany.
I raise my hand and share once upon a time,
I had a babysitter who touched me unwantedly.
The other students giggle and the teacher tells me,
stop trying so hard to be
the center of attention.