He was the source for all my scars:
forehead, knee, anklebone.
Three years ahead in the game,
our world was slaps and fists,
knuckles driven into thighs,
wrists seared by Indian burns.
I’d seen his car crashes,
taken panicked calls in the dawn.
But he was always fine in the end.
Mother said coolant gnawed away his skin,
ran into his boot when the air bubble blew
in the car factory, pooled and chewed.
Third-degree right down to the bone,
and a trail of speckle-scars,
burns arcing across his back.
I imagined his heel as blade-scooped out:
severed ball of flesh, neatly round, removed
and pulsing, some hollow, bloodless cavity
but I couldn’t; I wouldn’t creep down
the basement stairs
to see those plastic sheets,
his body turned by nurses.
I got drunk on disinfectant,
studied bandages brought to the kitchen,
oily and orange; eavesdropped
when he shifted his weight
on the pullout couch,
watching cartoons alone.
“Police were seeking a cream-colored Camaro in connection to French’s abduction; anyone
with a car resembling that make and model became an instant suspect.” –quote about the Paul
Bernardo and Karla Holmolka murders in Ontario, Canada.
The headline of the Hamilton Spectator announced it first:
horror, horror, a blonde with braces hacked up,
encased in concrete and scattered at the bottom of the city lake.
Then, weeks later, found in the ditch: girl sexed, girl strangled
from St. Catherine’s, and a car connected to both bodies:
Cream-colored Camaro. Decades later, the stories don’t mention
how those cars were suddenly in every driveway,
wicked, pale suspects lined up the street. They don’t tell how
how us girls broke their windshields with rocks from our mothers’ gardens,
ripped pages from our English notebooks to write in block letters
WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE, how even the adults
flagged down police to report every auto in the neighborhood,
anything from tan to barely peach. They don’t talk about how
we were fixed inside our houses after dark, where our brothers
taught us how to punch (thumb outside fist, use a horizontal wrist),
and slipped their switchblade knives into our jacket pockets.
And they don’t remember how we sneaked out
to walk like boys at sunset: hoods up, heavy gait,
stomping down busy Guelph Line, fingering those dull blades,
and boasting exactly where we would stab the obvious man
(thigh, neck, maybe through the eye)
if we are next on his list.
“Watch out for the Americans,” we were told the first day:
the nineteen-year-olds that make their way
from Detroit over the border to Bentley’s,
the ones who grope our backs, who spill on us,
and then steal over the Ambassador Bridge
in the morning, giddy with their sly getaway
from our sweet mouths. But no worries, girls:
I speak their language. My father is the alien
that brought me over state lines for the summers,
so yeah, I know their ways. And they’ll learn quickly
we Canadians aren’t as nice as they say
when we give a flick of a finger when they stare,
when we fight through a radius of fingers,
mascara smudging in the heat, our goosebumps writing our story.
The best means to take our revenge are the first notes
of ‘Home for a Rest:’ let’s scream in unison, raise your bottles,
hook arms to lock the Americans out as they look on,
bewildered from behind. Of course, they don’t know.
They never think to learn something on this other side.
So, the Yanks will only swing their shoulders,
clutch the beers they can only order here,
and stare at the backs of our jeans while we dance.