a mad woman in the attic,
yells at her dead husband
and shouts obscenities from the second story window,
tosses her soiled panties to the sidewalk,
scares the cat up a linden tree.

My mother,
in curlers and a night dress,
rattlesnake tattoos curled around both shins,
quivers on a raw October morning bellowing
to the cat, its calico coat blending in with
the sunlight and shadows of the heart-shaped leaves
gone jaundice before descending.

My sister,
late for junior high school, empties
her bag on the kitchen table—
yesterday’s tuna on rye oozing from a
crumple of tin foil, an algebra worksheet smeared
with metallic blue eyeliner, a burnt bong, love
notes from Dick the Prick, and a wheel of
birth control pills that she scoops up before
darting out the door to catch the bus,
blowing a kiss to the cat as she rolls on.

in red sneakers, teaching myself how to tie
a double knot the way my babysitter does, looping
over and under again and again until the lace hangs in
an unforgiveable knot against my shoe, finding the
scissors to cut the cords—final, once and for all—socks
and sneakers tossed to the wind on my way out the door,
marching barefoot across the crinkle of frozen dew on the grass
to run away like the cat, too.