Once you were a god I could feel
enter the house from my room.
Once I knew to shut the door
when you returned. Once my muscles
tensed in anticipation of the moment
you came and rained your anger
down; my sister and I cringed.
We’d hear the car pull in, snap
the television off, and run. But
there was no escaping the key
in the lock, the door swung back,
the sound of your heels crossing
the floor. We were soft-bodied
in our shells. We hunched
quiet as the corners where we
crouched. We split up to decrease
the risk. We would sacrifice
ourselves for one another.
Except I remember the night
you pulled her from bed
and set her before our father
to accuse him. How she must have
stood in the living room while
you screamed, head down, fists
clenched, although I couldn’t
see. I was huddled fearful in
my bed. All I could think was
I was glad it wasn’t me.

Copyright © 2018 Jennifer Militello. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Fall 2018.