Years ago I wiped your runny nose, problem child in a room full of curious children.
Some twisted and broken; you were whole,
though you duck-walked into tables
and toys flew out of your grasp.
In the bitterest of winters
you came to school, no socks
week-old dirt caked on your smile.
We bathed you, took off the too large
skirt, too small shoes,
and saw the welts,
blue wounds from a sinking father.
Your wraith of a mother, babe in arms,
peered from the window,
while brother Billy, ten at most,
pulled you down the frozen hill on his sled.
Your shrieks broke the morning into particles
that caught in my throat.
Sometimes I went up through the drifts
to carry you, slipping with your bulk
and the red coat that smelled of kerosene.
Loretta of the blue eyes,
I still carry you down that hill,
away and away.