It was Mrs. Garvin, the doctor's wife,
who told my mother, Well, if you're that broke,
put the kids up for adoption.
Out under the porch light that summer,
we slapped at mosquitoes and invented
our brave escape--luminous sheets
knotted out the window
were the lines of a highway down the house.
We would know the way,
like ingenious animals, to go
quietly toward the river,
but we could imagine no further
than the shacks on stilts
shivering the water,
the Kentucky hills on the other side.
Denise, the youngest, took to sleepwalking,
wading room to room for the place
one of us--curled up in a bed's corner--
might have left her. I'd wake
to her face pressed against my back,
her hands reining the edges of my nightgown.
I didn't tuck her into my shoulder
but loosened her fingers and led her
back to her own bed, her fear
already seeping into me like water
or like the light spilling
from the milk truck
as it backfired down the street.