Joan Larkin


It was a party; I had on my party dress.
There was something wrong in Grandpa's friend's throat.
I kept him waiting outside the bathroom
while I read Mother West Wind "When" stories.
When Mama yelled at me to Make it fast,
I wiped. I flushed. I came out on the landing
holding the blue book behind my back.
His lighted cigar was the red eye of an animal.
He reached a hand up--big, spotted like an animal--
under the short skirt of my party dress.
I felt pleasure, and I felt afraid of the hand.
Nice girl, he was smiling,
and the red eye shook and smelled like a cigar.
This was at the top of some stairs--
what house was it?
Were there stairs on Westminster Avenue?
How little was I? I remember. Little.
I said, Mama, the man touched me.
No, she said. She was worried
about the party; she was serving
a tray of green things and pink things.
She explained the facts to me quickly.
No, she said.
The man is a nice old man.

Copyright 1986, Joan Larkin. Reprinted from A Long Sound with the author's

Joan Larkin's books of poetry include Housework (Out & Out Books, 1975), A Long
(Granite Press, 1986), and Cold River, forthcoming from Olive's Press in
September, 1996. All three are distributed by Olive's Press, 813 Eighth Avenue, 4R,
Brooklyn, NY 11215. Larkin has co-edited several anthologies, including Gay and
Lesbian Poetry in Our Time
(St. Martin's, 1988), and has taught writing at Brooklyn,
Goddard, and Sarah Lawrence Colleges. She conducts writing workshops in New York