The Kid

By 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)