by Jennifer J. Pruiett-Selby

When we break free
we’ll race to the treeline
pumpin’ our arms
like we’re running
from dragons. Dad
won’t catch us
in cowboy boots &
belt wrapped fist

We’ll jump stumps
and fallen trunks bare
foot if we have to—
nevermind the ants
crawlin’ the forest
floor like it’s grandma’s
house, looking for sugar
cookies laid on doily plates

When we get to the creek
we’ll keep running ‘till we’re
knee deep in that numbing
water—to hell with catching
our death of colds. We’ll
splash until we lose our
breath, and the bruises
won’t hurt so much

We’ll drink milk from Thompsons’
cow, and nap in the clearing while
Dad stomps around sloshing his
torpedo of Busch, slurrin’ and shoutin’
Boys, come on home. We’ll barely
hear him over the sound of water
rushing like hunters trompin’ through
underbrush until he just fades away

And we won’t go home
until the stars prick through
the soot-black sky and we’ll
sneak real quiet like bandits
into bed, to hell with supper—
prob’ly meatloaf again anyway—
who needs it. ‘Cause we ate
mulberries from the wild bush

Like men. Then we’ll cover
up with flashlights in hand
until the house grows silent
and Mama sleeps, too. Then we’ll
rest, and dream of slaying
monsters and escapin’ into the
trees out back of the house. We’ll
be okay then—if we can break free.

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