by Heather Dorn
I fall down the stairs like a rag doll
again and again when I’m four.
The hat rack breaks my body’s tumble
and I thump to a stop. Nobody ever
moves that hat rack, maybe worried
I’d crack headfirst into the wall instead.
Better to be impaled. There is something
slippery about being four and next to the steps
in my house. There is something
that still pushes me over the edge
of that first step now. I have seen how
this is inherited. I watched my brother
bang his three year old head into
concrete over and over again. He is too
sturdy to fall down the stairs and has to
break himself another way instead. I see
my mother’s face, like blue ink spilled
on her eyes. She did not fall, whatever
she says. I watch my father’s fist raise
above her, gripped, as if he held the pen
that would ink her face. There is something
hopeful about being a woman in a man’s
story. Step fathers like to stare and I learn
there is a violence that is quietly louder. There is
something that still pushes at the edges of
comfort when men talk to me. As if the switch
reads: “Medusa/ Kitten.” There is something
about the way my father’s lamb was not done right
and when Janay Rice apologizes and people suddenly care,
I remember how much like brushing my teeth it felt, sitting
at the top of the stairs, listening to my mother cry.
And I never knew when later step-he’s would come
into my dark room or bend my body
on the couch as I half-slept or grab the back
of my head in his palm, gathering the hair
like a twisted ponytail, pushing me lower.
I fall down like a doll, over and over, there is
something slippery about being a woman
in a man’s idea. If he says Hi, I want
to tell him screw off! But if he tells me
Watch where the hell you’re going! my instinct
is to follow him home purring,
and beg to curl at his feet.
Wait til he’s asleep, then
take a sharp, deep, slice at his throat
and crawl back street side.
Heather Dorn is the Director of the Binghamton Poetry Project, a literary non-profit that runs free poetry workshops, contests, readings, and anthology publication for local voices. She is graduating with her PhD in English, Creative Writing Poetry from Binghamton University in Spring 2016. Her work can be found in Festival Writer, Helen, Metonym, and The Paterson Literary Review.