For Maggie in Mississippi, 1978
by Leigh Allen

When I was fifteen, my father whipped me with his leather belt
in our living room, beside the piano and the picture window,
the sunlight shining through the sheers.
I yelled at him during the beating, “You don’t love me!”
And he commenced to beat me harder.
Maggie, a Black woman working as a maid at our house that day,
came in to the living room, bent down and hugged me to her,
put her body between me and my father’s swinging belt,
and cried, “Please, Mr. Wilbur, please!”
My father said, “Get out of my way or I’m going to hit you, too.”
But she didn’t. She just stood there hugging me and looking into his
_____ eyes.
My mother sat in the recliner in the other room
in front of her soaps, pretending not to hear.

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