Now it’s winter, almost night,
and she’s at the table copying
her spelling list while her mother bangs
pots around the white kitchen,
slams open and shut cabinet doors.
Words can be so tricky: sometimes rite is R-I-T-E,
But mostly it’s R-I-G-H-T.
Her mother shook her awake last week,
hard, to remind her. And here’s new trouble:
slight keeps turning into sight
and she’s erased it so many times
the paper has holes and small tight accordion
creases. She feels fright rise up from her stomach
into her throat. Fright next to fight.
Out the window, the streetlights come on,
small haloes of warmth; light with another silent gh;
means glowing or weightless
but don’t forget the gh in weight too.
Unless you want to get your hair pulled, or four long
fingernail gashes down your arm that burn
like they’re on fire; bright with fire, not B-R-I-T-E.
The next word down is might, which can mean powerful
or just maybe, as in I might hit you,
I might not. It depends.
And here’s the hardest one of all: height,
an all wrong word, an inside-out kind of word;
the great distance that love falls,
the way it hovers overhead;
sometimes out of spite,
and sometimes in spite of everything.

Published in Rip Rap

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash