January 24, 2009

It Was What It Was
Judith Quaempts

Phillip was a thin, dark boy
who lived across the alley.
When I was ten, we were friends.
His mother dyed her hair black.
She smoked a lot and rarely spoke.
His stepfather beat them both.

We were eating dinner:
hot dogs, baked beans,
potato chips and the one coke
we kids were allowed all week—
when through our window we saw Phillip
burst from his back door.

He ran like a cartoon figure,
arms and legs pumping
as he tried outrunning
the laughing monster at his heels.

This was a race Phillip
had no chance of winning.
His stepfather caught him
and then Phillip was screaming.

Call the police Dad, I begged,
he's killing Phillip.
It's a damn shame, my father said,
but it's none of our business.

Until that moment
my father was God.


Judith Quaempts lives in rural Oregon, where she has a novel in final draft. She writes about the homeless, the ill, the abused—people we don't always see. She is inspired by the poetry of William Stafford and Raymond Carver.

No comments: