A Feral Child
~ after Charles Simic
by Suzanne Allen
I was born the Thursday before Memorial Day.
This was no accident. Dr. Varga induced labor
so that it wouldn’t interrupt his weekend golf trip.
I always remember that blood-soaked hour as
having been earlier than it actually was, but at least
the weather was mild and I would not be expected
to walk for nearly a year. After all, we had only just
walked on the moon, and a thirteen year-old named Genie
had spent the last twelve years locked in a bedroom
in a nearby town, strapped to a potty chair, staring
at a yellow raincoat. When discovered—as if
such a girl can, in fact, be discovered—she was all
bunny-walk and sniff, spit and claw. Meanwhile,
I ate well and my mother feared for my figure.
She made me clothes to match her own, and
her brother wrote once from Vietnam—too bad
it’s not a boy! Nixon promised to bring him home
by Christmas after lowering the legal voting age
to 18, but Genie would never be able to vote
and she would be abused for years by foster parents
and researchers. Even I was once harassed
by a dark-haired man in a silver car with red seats.
He was wearing tighty whities and looking
for his wiener dog—Do you know what a wiener
dog looks like? he asked me, and I ran. At about
that same time, Genie retreated into irreversible
silence, refused to open her mouth. “Latch-key kids”
is what they called us when our parents divorced
and our moms had to work and there was only
cold spaghetti to come home to in the afternoon.
She drove a paneled Pinto with jingling hubcaps
and an A.M. radio, sewed small bells into
my petticoats. I wanted to slip into that purple
bottle with Barbara Eden, blink my eyes and
give myself to vapor and sulk, sit cross-legged
in billowing, pink harem pants and wait—
For my dad to come in his shiny new Porsche and
drive me away from the other kids whose fathers
never came, the shy boy around the corner who didn’t
have anything to say.
* * * * *
Suzanne Allen holds an MFA in Poetry and is a coeditor for The Bastille, (of Spoken Word Paris.) Her poems have been published in print and online journals such as Cadence Collective, California Quarterly, Carnival, Cider Press Review, Crack the Spine, Hobo Camp Review, Nerve Cowboy, Pearl, San Pedro River Review, Spillway, Spot Lit, Tears in the Fence and Upstairs at Duroc. Anthology publications include Not a Muse,(Haven Books), The Heart of All that Is (Holy Cow Press), Strangers in Paris (Tightrope Books), Veils, Halos and Shackles (Kasva Press), and Villanelles (Knopf). She also creates videos of poets reading their work, which can be found on YouTube at Vlogosophy. Her first chapbook, verisimilitude, is available at CorruptPress.net, and her most recent chapbook, Little Threats, was published just this summer by Picture Show Press. “A Feral Child” comes from this collection.