Kelley White

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Love is not the word for what they do.

            (unfortunately, you can read this from top to bottom or from bottom to top.)

The appropriate word is ‘rape.’
‘Molest’ doesn’t begin to touch it.
The father ‘molests’ the child.
The father beats the mother’s new boyfriend.
The mother’s new boyfriend ‘molests’ the child
The mother’s boyfriend beats the mother.

The mother’s boyfriend ‘babysits.’
The mother’s boyfriend beats the child.
The mother’s boyfriend is a registered sex offender.
The father sues for custody.
The mother beats the child.
The father sues for visitation rights.

The child yells at the mother.
The father gets out of jail.
The mother yells at the child.
The mother’s new boyfriend yells at the mother.
The mother tells the judge she’s clean and sober.
The mother sues the grandmother for custody.

The grandmother gets custody while the mother is in rehab.
The mother is revived with Narcan.
The mother ODs on heroin and fentanyl.
The teacher wants the child to be good.
The mother wants medication to make the child behave.
The child wants to be good.

The father is in jail.
The father sells crack and heroin.
The mother asks the pediatrician if anger is hereditary.
The child is expelled from kindergarten.

The child hits a teacher.
The child swears.

There are problems.
The child begins school.
The child says, ‘No,’ ‘Stop it,’ “I’m gonna beat your butt.’
The child is slow to speak.
The child rolls over, sits, crawls, walks.
The child is developmentally slow.

The child is born in pain.
There are complications with the delivery.
The woman goes into labor early.
The woman carries the child seven months.
A couple share a needle.
A couple make ‘love.’

Pediatrician Kelley White has worked in inner city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her recent books are TOXIC ENVIRONMENT (Boston Poet Press) and TWO BIRDS IN FLAME (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.