The girl was ill prepared for severe. Overbearing, scattered, raucous—all things foreign to her—she could have adapted to those qualities in a guardian well enough. But in her new home, severe was a living, breathing force all its own, siphoning off hope.
Wake up to severe, wash face, brush teeth, eat breakfast to severe staring as though she were a gnat, as though she could be dispensed with in one slap. Who wouldn't cringe? Run home from school, knee skinned, to rage-infested hands scraping flesh, pouring iodine, eyes glinting with satisfaction at pain sharp as scissors slicing scrap from stars. Who wouldn't float between thoughts?
The child grew slant, stashing poems behind attic chests, in coat linings, under ornaments, in creased photo albums, encyclopedias, cookbooks—days to months to years.
With toes snug in scuffed loafers, the girl tiptoed away. She joined a swell of youth, each one a prism with tales to tell. Severe haunted the guardian, who found little papers tucked here and there; with each stanza, one grizzled heart softened, no one to see.
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