Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Vanessa pulls her orange skirt over her feet. Her shirt is covered with red hearts. She traces the ground as she cries. Her step father used to call men over to rape her. Used to pimp her and laugh as she cried behind the curtain.

Too small. Legs, too small for her age. She is only seven.

The tears gather in the middle of her pupils and spill down her face like drops of rain collecting on a window. Where is that smile, Where is that smile I love to see. Where has it gone? Started with the small boys and then later, the bigger boys. Used to sleep on a mat in the kitchen knees, to chest in protection but there is no protection for her. Her mother doesn't see her. Her mother beats her when she says it hurts.

I sit and I can't cry, can't cry for fear she will see mama lose all reserve. But as I'm crawling into bed I think of her crumpled frame, knees drawn in, tracing the dirt on the red floor, too vulnerable, too innocent to know what “sleep with me,” means, too young to know the word rape. The only verse as I pray for her that keeps crowding in my head is “the old has gone, the new has come,” and I tell Vanessa she has a new life here with us and I will never let anyone touch her again. I want to keep that promise, I want to keep that promise. I want to...

Later, I see Vanessa in a green dress smiling, laughing as she skips jumprope and tells me she wants to be a lawyer someday. I ask her why...and she says.... "for justice."

And I think...
me too.

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