The Kid

By Ai 1947–2010 Ai
My sister rubs the doll’s face in mud,   
then climbs through the truck window.   
She ignores me as I walk around it,   
hitting the flat tires with an iron rod.
The old man yells for me to help hitch the team,
but I keep walking around the truck, hitting harder,   
until my mother calls.
I pick up a rock and throw it at the kitchen window,   
but it falls short.
The old man’s voice bounces off the air like a ball
I can’t lift my leg over.

I stand beside him, waiting, but he doesn’t look up
and I squeeze the rod, raise it, his skull splits open.   
Mother runs toward us. I stand still,
get her across the spine as she bends over him.
I drop the rod and take the rifle from the house.   
Roses are red, violets are blue,
one bullet for the black horse, two for the brown.   
They’re down quick. I spit, my tongue’s bloody;   
I’ve bitten it. I laugh, remember the one out back.   
I catch her climbing from the truck, shoot.   
The doll lands on the ground with her.
I pick it up, rock it in my arms.
Yeah. I’m Jack, Hogarth’s son.
I’m nimble, I’m quick.
In the house, I put on the old man’s best suit
and his patent leather shoes.
I pack my mother’s satin nightgown
and my sister’s doll in the suitcase.
Then I go outside and cross the fields to the highway.
I’m fourteen. I’m a wind from nowhere.   
I can break your heart.

Ai, “The Kid” from Vice: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1999 by Ai. Reprinted with the permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. This selection may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher. www.nortonpoets.com.

Source: Vice: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1999)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Ai 1947–2010

Subjects Youth, Living

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Dramatic Monologue

   Ai

Biography

Ai is a poet noted for her uncompromising poetic vision and bleak dramatic monologues which give voice to marginalized, often poor and abused speakers. Though born Florence Anthony, she legally changed her name to Ai which means “love” in Japanese. She has said that her given name reflects a “scandalous affair my mother had with a Japanese man she met at a streetcar stop” and has no wish to be identified “for all eternity” with . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Youth, Living

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Dramatic Monologue

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.