The First Time My Ass Was Grabbed

I was just filled out and fifteen–

a lipstick ad’s full pout–
on a Spanish moss draped vacation
in Charleston’s honey-thick August.
Mother, father, brother, sisters, and I
held trolley poles and jostled along
with the rest of the tourists–tight
and crumpled soft pack cigarettes.
My thin cotton dress sweat-pasted
around my buttocks’ curves.
The pinch, a quick goat bite,
bruised peach skin not broken.
Shame venom flushed my head,
an old screen door swung and banged
after the grope’s retreating wind
to find where those fingers belonged.
But all the faces were shut books’
blank jackets that gave away no guilt.
Fear scorpion stung, I throbbed red
and burned violet, looking back
to hold the phantom hand at bay.
Out of the street car, my family strewn,
like a deck for fifty-two card pick up,
on City Market asphalt, concrete, and brick.
While we watched sweetgrass
basket making, I told my father
that some bastard had grabbed me.
He was a shrug and a calm it happens.
Shock’s cold jolt straightened my back,
punched my lungs gasping the wet air,
and my claustrophobia began.
I stood apart, feet of humidity
between me and any new offenders.

Karen Eileen Sisk’s poems have appeared or will appear in Permafrost, Harpur’s Palate, Barely South, Ellipsis, Oxford Magazine, PANK, and Painted Bride Quarterly. She received her M.A. in literature from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and is currently working on her Ph.D. in creative writing at Oklahoma State University.

*Photo courtesy of benchilada.