Christine Stark


nurse touches my back got crooked like a old lady is how I look the school nurse asks if I'm okay with her finger it crawls up my spine like a spider is how it feels

bend over so I do hands together so I do the school lady checks my back every Friday before lunch when the other kids do art shirt off the spider crawls up my back follows my spine until it reaches my head knock knock

my back's getting worse because my head's too heavy from thinking the school lady says Why is your back getting worse you're too young I don't tell her about my heavy head from the thinking

school nurse says: are you okay
I say: yes

now I look just like a old lady crooked and bent I get a cane and hobble to school with it not really but I could from being so crooked other kids make art a spider crawls up my back my back is a s stands for snake ssssnake like the big one in my bed crawls up lives where my spine used to be

school nurse calls me in special on a Monday to talk with a school man the school man and the school nurse say take your shirt off so I do hands together so I do the school nurse says See one two three she counts up my back with her spider leg fingers until she gets to a spot then her spider leg crawls over my rib under my arm

Where did you get this the school nurse says with her spider leg finger on the new spot I shrug my shoulders to tell her I don't know but my hands are pressed together it's hard to move Do you have any more the school man says I stand up straight like a arrow pull my pants down

the school nurse and the school man say Oh so I pull my pants up they call in my mom and another school lady and a policeman who takes pictures of my crooked back with my pants down my mom says she doesn't know anything maybe it was the babysitter they ask me I shrug my shoulders bent over like a old lady from thinking too much

Knock knock
Who's there
The head board
Whose head board

the policeman and the new school lady take me into custody until matters are resolved I don't know what matters are and when I ask the school nurse what does matters are resolved mean she says Oh you are just like a little parrot I don't ask no more questions I wonder if the school nurse is going to walk up my crooked back anymore with her spider leg fingers

* * *

I scream beat my fists against the hospital bed cold and stiff Who's Patty Tara says in the room with me 1950s style pink walls white ceiling gray tile floor Shut off the light I say please it hurts my head exploding lightning over a boggy marsh in North Dakota oh please I moan roll my head on the pillow shut my eyes Patty I miss her I miss her I miss her The light the light I say clang the metal bar along the side of the bed turn it off please What is going on a woman's voice says I don't open my eyes the light is too much even with them shut Make it stop I say my head I wrap my arm across my forehead cover my eyes keep out the light!

the light switch clicks the nurse leaves I have more than six senses to tell me the nurse is gone I see without my eyes I feel without my skin the bodies in the house with me mother father walk in walk out stand in the hallway stand in the hallway! I have the biggest ears in all the world the biggest ears in all the world! I hear footsteps drop a mile away a mile away! I hear footsteps leave a room walk down a hall padded over by carpet soft as mice pad pad pad mom's knuckles on the door pan frying chicken in the kitchen father's snake coiled in his pants breathing through the zipper sliding up the stairs between the gold velvet English wallpaper crowns I hear it coming all of it coming going staying creeping crawling padding listening in the hall mom listening in the hall! mom hears it all the panting moaning breathing whish whish sound out the mask hole keeping me safe mom keeping me safe with her bat mask sugar candy in the night mother listening in the hall with her white knuckles mice feet padding so no one hears her listening to mad dad snake man killing me in bed twisting seaweed sheets round my ankle chest arm sending me to the bottom of the freezing ocean water

Mom mice feet padding mom mice feet padding
mom knew mice feet paddingig
mom listened mice feet padding
mom went to bed mice feet padding
mom slept while he was in me

the pain is bad! bad! bad! I have the words of a two year old knives cut through my brain knives cut through my brain! mom didn't love me snakes white knuckles on the door padding mice feet ow ow I cry like a baby like the first time he raped me pinned me to the ocean floor tied seaweed kelp round my body left me to bloat turn gray lose my eyes to hungry fish picking out my insides my insides! I cry owwww knives in my brain Patty Patty I moan Tara's hand holds mine Who's Patty she says she says I see Patty her long legs pony tail skinny Norwegian nose saggy jeans Patty I say again in a little girl's voice I see her standing by the bushes in front of her house I hear him clanking my bed she saved me from him she saved me from them! he hurt her because she loved me Patty shoots she scores I slap the stick on the basement floor flip out the orange puck I am not supposed to have or to feel love Patty loved me Patty I cry hard a baby's first rape terrible sadness floods my body washes away numbness fear apathy depression Patty loved me I loved her Patty I say the ceiling blurred above me loved me I blink hold Tara's hand cry hard for the baby I was for Patty wherever she is


Christine Stark is an award-winning writer and visual artist of European and American Indian ancestry whose work has been published in numerous periodicals and anthologies, including The Florida Review; Feminist Studies; Poetry Motel; Hawk and Handsaw: the Journal of Creative Sustainability; Birthed From Scorched Hearts; To Plead Our Own Cause: Narratives of Modern Slavery; and Primavera. She is a co-editor (with Rebecca Whisnant) of Not for Sale, an international anthology on sexual violence. She is a 2009 Pushcart Prize nominee in fiction and a 2010 Loft Mentorship winner in creative non-fiction. Her poem, "Momma's Song," was released on a CD/manga in collaboration with musician Fred Ho and the Afro Asian Music Ensemble. Nickels was recently released by Modern History Press. Christine teaches writing at Metropolitan State University. She lives in Minneapolis with her partner, April.