he sheltered nothing
intent on her learning
silence, priming the slow
progress into the dark woods —
he forced her to watch
while he delicately placed
shells in small animals
and left chewed red cartridges
buried in spruce needles
on the dark green floor

she learned
she couldn't escape
his vicious attack
on animals and trees
and stopped hearing
his voice — he silenced her
at ten in the bush —
placed the axe's edge
with skilled precision
in the forehead of her dog

her silence never broke
each time his monstrous hands
would clamp axe and carve
into dark spruce she watched
the way they always fell —
he cut into her childhood
his huge hand
over her mouth
her small body impressed
in needles on the dark green floor

"Stepfather," Easy Over
(Windsor: Black Moss Press, 1980).
© 1980-2008 Judith Fitzgerald.
All Rights Reserved.

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