I gave them my childhood because I had to; 

half my adulthood, their echoes in my head. 

He’d pound blind fury if her expression changed, 

pummel if her tone faltered. When she divorced him 

she partied like a prisoner, freed. Sometimes 

she’d pass out on the couch after dinner, TV blaring, 

and I’d circle back every hour to make sure 

she was still breathing. Even at eight 

I was on patrol. At eleven, court-ordered visiting 

at dad’s, my sister & I tried to eat dinner— 

but that familiar crying out, a sound so visceral, 

so Pavlovian, I can’t hear it without intervening. 

I put down my fork & headed to the kitchen, 

all five feet of me, jacked up on so much rage. 

As I rounded the corner, I saw him holding 

his third wife by the collar of her housedress, 

slapping her face back & forth, back & forth. 

I ran at him like a linebacker, his eyes widening 

as I got closer. Elf to giant, child to ogre, I pushed 

him off her, and pushed, and pushed, until, 

with my final shove, he fell against the wall 

and actually slid down, like in the movies. I stared 

at him— all splayed out, bully on his back—

and me there, shaking, with my newfound power.