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six years old,
she stands
by his side
and watches
her daddy
slip the letter
into the bible.
when i’m gone,
he says,
tell mommy
where this is.

she doesn’t
why daddy can’t
give it to mommy
a hug, a big one.
daddy is crying.
she watches as he
hitches a bag
over his shoulder,
pulls the front door
shut behind him.

don’t go, daddy…

* * * * *

the letter made
mommy cry, too.
no… she
made mommy cry.
she was the one
who showed her
where it was.
she feels guilty,
though she doesn’t
know the word
or what it means.

don’t cry, mommy…

* * * * *

is angry now.
angry at her
she thinks.
doesn’t like me,
she thinks.
she knows what
that word means.
she hears mommy
and daddy not like
each other a lot.

mommy, please like me…

does daddy
not like her, either?
is that why he left?
was it
because of her?

oh, daddy, please like me…

* * * * *

mommy says
daddy’s coming home,
but she wonders
if daddy will leave again
if she’s not a
very, very good girl.

she doesn’t want
daddy to leave,
she doesn’t want
mommy to cry.
she doesn’t want
them to not like her.

why can’t jesus
fix the not likings
the way he fixed
the lame man
in her colored
sunday school paper?
maybe jesus
doesn’t like her, either,
because she
doesn’t know
how to be a good girl.
maybe no one
likes her.
maybe she’s just
not likeable.

she will spend
the rest of her life
trying to be likeable
so that daddy
won’t leave again,
and mommy
won’t cry anymore,
and jesus will
answer her prayers
when she prays.

* * * * *

a lifetime later
she’s still trying…
…only now it’s
with everyone.