by Isabelle Senechal
                                                                                Her tragedy was knowing the unhappy truth and revealing it,  
                                                                                    something highly unwelcome then as now. – Robert E. Bell 
It happens like this: 
she hears the car’s engine purring outside before its  
final exhale signaling that it’s slipped into a drunken stupor  
but her step-father’s life motor still putters on as he  
stumbles through the front door his ring of keys  
chiming against his greasy jeans and his heavy  
footsteps rocking the hallway hardwood outside her room  
the earthquake sires a fissure the door creaks  
open and she knows he’s standing there in contemplation  
although she doesn’t dare open her eyes  
her breath hitches she feigns fighting through an involuntary dream  
when he tilts forward and pulls aside the quilt lays  
paw on her trembling shoulder sifts digits through her  
nightgown a secret game that they share 
It happens like this:  
she grips the dog leash tightly but the mutt pulls  
forward into a bush humming with bumblebees its nose  
tracking the pollen that lingers on their knees and a passing 
jogger offers kindly to shepherd the hound away from  
their stings the young woman thanks him for his  
gallantry but she must be on her way because her lunch break’s  
over in thirty minutes and her bare arms are simmering vermillion  
under the sun the stranger plants himself in the middle of the trail  
drops his shorts and begins slathering sweat onto his  
mounting machismo barking orders to the girl who sobs  
faster faster as he strokes himself to death the dog  
cocks its head a silent witness for the woman who 
bites her tongue every time the memory resurfaces  
It happens like this:  
she smells the stale cigarette burning his lungs catching  
fires in his esophagus as he drinks spectral  
smoke he’s on his second pack today which means he must  
be agitated about the sunday sermon or the  
home football team losing or tax day the killing  
stick trembles between his teeth his steel eyes follow  
her as she sets the dinner plate before him when she  
withdraws her hands he seizes her wrist purpling  
the pasty skin under taut pressure he unleashes the  
fury of an old testament god accusing this israelite  
of unfaithfulness this whore of babylon  
carpel bones crack prophesying in the ecclesiastic blaze 
screams rise from her throat crippling hallelujahs  
It happens like this:  
she tastes the amber carbonation fizzing like sea spray   
against her taste buds cheap beer college ambrosia  
palpable freedom in a red plastic cup 
so she guzzles drink after drink never a drought in her mouth her 
inhibition spirited away by a flood of endorphins in her brain 
she kisses boys into men until her protective friend   
wrenches her from a stranger’s lap wraps his arm around her shoulders  
promises to make sure she gets home okay back in his  
apartment he fixes her a glass of water but she drifts  
off into her dreams before the rim touches her lips only  
to awaken in the early morning when he presses her head into the pillow  
his weight atop her squeezing out drunken tears her  
heart black a rotting pomegranate   
It happens like this:  
she sees the electric pulse coursing through fluorescent  
veins the light buzzing in the examination  
room as the nurse taps a ballpoint against her clipboard  
those beats hit off time with the clock’s lethargic ticking  
the woman tries to ignore how the pen’s clicks match the incessant  
throbbing between her legs a chilling reminder of when he  
forcibly entered her in the alleyway and the shiv baited  
blood against her throat now an officer strides in  
and narrowing his eyes asks where were you going what  
were you wearing why did you wait so long to report  
it describe him but the details are dark fragments snapped  
trunks after tempest eruption enduring  
destruction the hippocampus watches it happen