“The Path to Pain” by Peter Groesbeck
I saw my little sister go next door
with the neighbor boy.
White sandals on her small feet,
short pink socks with frilly lace cuffs,
and blue flowered shorts
matching a cotton button-down shirt.
Mama always dressed us nice, even to play outside
on a slick June morning, two days into summer vacation.
Wet blades squeaked beneath my shoes
as I followed up the hill. Reaching the crest,
I thought, at first, she’d slipped,
seeing her prone in the dew,
her cheek pressed into the long grass
until I saw the stick in the big boy’s hand
and her bare bottom, pink as her lacy socks.
Only a naive nine myself,
I didn’t know what to do, who to tell, or how to stop
the stick in the big boy’s hand.
Forty years later, my little sister lies
with her cheek against the pillow,
her bottom still pink and bare, as she mumbles why
she can’t get dressed for the fourth day in a row.
“Too dangerous to go outside,” she insists. “The grass is slick.”
I watch from the doorway, not knowing what to do, who to tell,
or how to stop the stick, still in the big boy’s hands.
Jacqueline Jules is a Northern Virginia author and poet who writes for children and adults. Her books for young readers include Zapato Power, No English, and Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation. Her poetry has appeared in numerous publications including The Broome Review, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Christian Science Monitor, Chaminade Literary Review, Sunstone, Imitation Fruit, Potomac Review, and Minimus. She won the Arlington Arts Moving Words Contest in 2007, Best Original Poetry from the Catholic Press Association in 2008, and the SCBWI Magazine Merit Poetry Award in 2009. Visit www.jacquelinejules.com
Read an interview with Jacqueline here.
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