If it were a flower, I’d describe
its coloring as beautiful--
boysenberry center graduated
to eggplant, outlined
in vanilla, edged in fawn--
but it’s the bruise
centered on my chest
big as a softball. No,
big as the size of his fist.
He stole every breath.
I tried to get each one back,
but his fist hit my face.
An index finger to his lips,
blood from my nose
staining his hand.
“Shh,” he whispered.
He’d proposed at the zoo
in front of the penguins,
three years before
my first black eye.
He said to me,
on bended knee,
he’d love me
until my heart stopped.
How I Stopped the Fighting
My father’s voice bellowed out the screen porch door,
past our cows grazing on patchy meadow grass
and through the maple trees of Fothergill’s grove.
He hollered at Mom–they fought constant as the trains
that traveled the tracks just beyond our acreage. The trains
didn’t stop on account of Sundays, and neither did they.
They never fought with fists, only careless words
and hurtful silence. I hustled my baby sister outside,
dared her to cartwheel down the rickety porch steps.
I never thought she would try.
They stopped yelling when she screamed,
Father’s boots loud on the hardwood floor.
Jagged bone split through flesh of her shin. Father
scooped her off the sidewalk and sprinted to the car.
In the backseat with my sister, Mom whispered prayers.
Father reached his bloodied hand back to touch Mom’s knee;
I cupped my hands over my face, and smiled.
About the Author: AJ Oxenford lives in West Des Moines, Iowa, where she teaches at a local college; she also owns a business with her husband where they take down barns and make furniture. She loves the Iowa Hawkeyes, reading mystery novels, and cat naps (with her cats).