Refuge comes in shadows, small corners.
I had two dens as a child.
I made acorn babies with twigs for limbs,
curled beneath an old pallet
propped against an oak tree.
Other children found me. Get out they said.
I dropped my dolls, sidled to one side,
a small animal observing humans
wreck her nest, uncomprehending
as they smashed the wood with branches
torn from trees, crushed my friends underfoot, laughing; I was confused.
They would not destroy without cause,
I must have deserved it somehow.
The other den was a hole, a scar
in a hillock of tattered tarpaulins
and dumped fossil cans. I dreamed
amongst the weeds, alone except for
the flasher behind the chain link fence.
Come closer, he would cajole.
I would smile shyly from my fort,
squint at his friendly flaccidity.
Part of the scenery, he never moved,
just leaned, squares and diamonds
pressed into his soft pale belly.
Come closer, do you want to touch it?
I would sigh and wish he had acorns
I could make into little babies.
it’s a shock,
the first time
an old man
sticks his tongue
in your mouth
leechlike, i did not
expect the feel
of dried slime
in a space reserved
for orange squash
and moon dust
no words to say
so i recoiled and
my mother told me
not to be rude as
i backed away
all i could think of
was the egg stains
on his collar
from the wedding buffet
and the scum of
spit round his lips
when he smiled
(I never mention
all the times being female
meant ‘I deserved it’.)
photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash