make even blue eyes appear gray, like absent
gaze of fresh-caught fish. Delores’s grade school
photo looks like it belongs on the back of a milk carton,
her hair distorted from chestnut to black,
her brown eyes wrongly charcoal.
It’s just an elementary school photo. She was never missing.
If it read: Have you seen me?
Not for thirty years, I would answer.
I was babysat at this foster home, a visitor among
forgotten foster children like Delores, who was older than me,
and Audrey, too, a child of joy in grown-up body.
She clapped and yelped shaking her head like Stevie Wonder
to a song no one could hear, always humming,
hugging me with skinny arms, be easy, Audrey,
Delores would say, she’s little.
I don’t remember Audrey having words but
I can still hear her owwww when Foster Mama
slap her and slap her, Cobra striking cowering rodent.
Once, I held Delores’s finger as we
crouched under the front porch.
Foster Mama hollered Delor-eees!
Delores looked at me as if
I may have an answer, me, at four.
Her face red, eyes inflamed.
I had no words.
We crept out from under,
soldiers surrendering at last stand,
no allies in wait to gallop in
riding us off safely on horses to the free free
sun, where her hair was
warm lake-water brown, not black,
baby-hairs around her face rust-orange,
like a halo bright
bright as Mother Mary’s flaming heart
in the hall-painting.
Foster Mama’s face no more than
a fingerprint smudge across thick
brushstrokes of white-peach tones,
her voice muted, though I know
she was screaming, swatting my face.
She marched me upstairs, gripping my
thin arm in a sweaty hand.
I do not remember her words only
door slam, lock saying CLICK.
Naked window framed sun sinking,
darkness rising like smoke, swirly wallpaper
that must’ve been invented to
I could not reach the doorknob.
But I kept reaching.
crying to empty room,
my own golden bright bright
on the floor.