Susan Elmslie


Big enough for me to crawl into. It might’ve held
a fake Christmas tree, neighbour’s TV or holiday
imperishables from the Sally Ann.
I was ten, making a house in the living room.
Cut out a window, opened a door. “Look at my box”
I called to my mother, and her friend put down his drink,
chided, half-slurred, “Don’t say that,” in a tone
that begged me to ask why. “Don’t say
that” he said again. And in the pause
while he raised his glass in slow-mo and drank,
eyeing me, I sat back on my heels and glimpsed
the fourth wall, a spare self watching a trashy play.
“Cut it out” my mother said, “she’s just a kid,” swatting
the wasp after the sting. “I’m just a fucking drunk,” his line.
Everything doubled, obscene, sublime–
No safety in words, then. And more room.

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