A terrible year for a girl—on the bloody cusp—
the number of her witch-hood, thirteen black cats,
ringing her ankles like shackles as she counts out their treats.
It’s also the number for making a statement
against her boring, suburban parents
of Volvos and J. Crew and charter schools
and farmer’s markets with blood-red tomatoes
and phallic squash; a child who wants to paint
her room and fingernails black, sit in the dark
with needles and records and blood.
It’s the number hotels and office towers shun,
their elevators sliding from twelve to fourteen
as if she’ll miss the deception, not feel the same
frisson stepping onto fourteen as thirteen
that warns her the guy coming down the hall
intends robbery or rape.
The number not to have on a sports jersey,
license plate, Friday, anniversary, house, or
day of your entry into a crooked world.
It’s only one year, one floor. You can make it, girl.
If you’re lucky, it will pass with only your bleeding to mark it.
August Is like Sunday Night
Laurel Peterson served as editor of the literary journal Inkwell. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in many literary journals. Her book publications include two chapbooks, That’s the Way the Music Sounds (FLP, 2009), and Talking to the Mirror (Last Automat Press, 2010), a mystery novel, Shadow Notes (BRP, 2016), and a full-length poetry collection, “Do You Expect Your Art to Answer You?” (Futurecycle, 2017). She currently serves as Norwalk, Connecticut’s poet laureate.