Elegy in Late Spring
The sheriff tells me not to touch
her mouth. There might be evidence
between her teeth, needling the gums.
He waits for me to say goodbye
to a fractured wrist, the berry-swell
where knuckles pressed her neck,
the gelid spill where someone yanked
her pigtails up: a lickerish kiss,
and down: an eggshell skull, cement.
I nod. They zip her up in black.
My father had said You shouldn’t chase
your sister through the streets. She’s scared
of playing freeze-tag after dark.
But I kept it up: the game where she learned
a scream so loud it couldn’t come out,
the way a body petrified.
I threaded her through the lilac night
as if my hand would be the last
to touch her hair. As if my teeth
could never flash in a stranger’s mouth.