C is for Cruelty

Almost daily, my sisters and I terrorized our too
beautiful baby brother. One summer night, we
chased him off a dock. Such a small splash in the
darkness, his moonface bobbing. Perhaps that
evening was the turning point when we went too
far. After, our cruelty to one another reduced to a
game we played when bored like checkers or uno.
Harm hung around though like a hungry stray dog.
It was the war served with tv dinners. The local
Jewish temple torching. One boy poured gas on a
kid, lighting a match, and watching him burn. The
lesser cruelties too—a boy broke my fingers; others
made me press my hand down their pants. The
neighbor boys watched me dress at night, looking
owl-eyed from their window at my thin nakedness
parading unaware. All prelude, warming me up as
quarry for the man who would kidnap, strangle and
rape me until in that instant, I was no longer a child.
Sometimes, I think humans hold dueling spirits—
the demon and the seraph. And childhood is our
unearthing, as we wrestle with saints and monsters
vying for control. Like The Good and Evil Angels
William Blake painted, fighting over a child. To
exist at all is something. But I tell you I loved the
yeast of my young self, budding. Its fermentation
zeroed both the cruelty and naiveté right out of me.





Heidi Seaborn is Executive Editor of The Adroit Journal and winner of the 2022 Missouri Review Jeffrey E. Smith Editors Prize in Poetry. She is the author of three award-winning books/chapbooks of poetry: An Insomniac’s Slumber Party with Marilyn Monroe, Give a Girl Chaos, and Bite Marks. Recent work in appears in Blackbird, Copper Nickel, Penn Review, Poetry Northwest, Rattle, and elsewhere. Heidi holds an MFA from NYU. For additional information, visit heidiseabornpoet.com.

Latest Issue

Issue 92

More In This Issue