I am young enough that he
Holds my age against me.
Though not so young
That he feels guilty.
Holding my hands behind my back,
Holding me against his moans.

Just enough for him to look at me in
Red-wine soaked
Red post-coital glow
And say,
I didn’t think at my age, I’d be dating a 24 year-old.

He didn’t ask me to stay,
He just said that I could
I am old enough to know the difference.

All these men,
They ask where I grew up.
I say,

I don’t tell them-
In October.
On the steps of the church down the street
Where I would wander.
Met others, made friends
With the characters on break from an AA meeting
Smoked too many cigarettes.
Rebelled, broke hearts.
Left love notes taped to the door.
Left my first lover.
It was a church that I never entered.

I grew up in October
When she told me it was cancer.
When I
On the steps.
Made a heaving, stuttered attempt at prayer
Banged on the door.

Asked Him why he’d let me save her
So many times before.
I’ve lived more than 24.  

But when he asks me,

I just say,

I don’t tell him,
At 8 Holly Gate Circle
At 8 years old.

On our kitchen floor.
My mother lay there.
This was the first time
hat he let me keep her.
She slipped away
In line with her
Plummeting blood-sugar.
I sobbed to the beat
Of her beeping glucometer.
he danced towards white light
Diabetic coma.

I was 8 years old
Digging through her purse
The way I used to dig through dirt

In search of an
 emergency injection
Tapped air from the syringe
Stuck the needle in between
The freckles of her skin.
Clutched the telephone
Untangling the cord enough
That I could touch her
Called for
an ambulance-

When he asked for my address
I just said,

I didn’t tell him,

At 11, maybe 12
In the arts and crafts cabin
Coughing on salt that he forced down my throat.
 Left scratch-kneed girl
Over-seasoned with guilt.

The aftermath when he told,
The bitter taste that it left-

Was worse.

Sitting on a picnic table
When my counselor whispered,
For years this was the story I never wrote
But by 17 I had healed
I told my mother
Who, in turn, revealed,
happened to him.
You see,
I grew up in a small town
45 minutes away from the city.
With the largest case of sexual abuse in the state’s history.
I grew up with boys who
Learned to love this way.

But when men ask me
Where I grew up
I just say,

 I don’t tell them
On the steps of Sacre-Coeur
Standing out of breath and
Just out of B
Nineteen, practically penniless
andering alone in Paris.

I grew up laughing,
Too hard.
I grew up in his arms.
I grew up on the day she died.
Months later when I realized
The difference between dead and gone.
Standing on a bridge in Amsterdam
The first time
I realized I was in love.

In the hallway of the hospital
Waving my grandfather’s advanced directive
At the doctors.
That despite my age
He had trusted me to speak for him
To recite the poem
Of his h
ealth-care proxy.
Not to let him live
This way
I grew up when I let him die.

  I grew up dreaming, breathing New York
Waiting for the right moment
Earning my way.
Learning from my mistakes
Sewing up wounds
I grew up writing poems about men like you.

How you’ve been marking off the days
Waiting on a calendar girl
Go ahead kid, call me February.
Call me May.
Call me the one that got away.
Call me October-
Call me twenty four.
(Call me, yours)

Go ahead kid,
Ask where I grew up.
I’ll tell you, like I did before,