Her strictly Catholic mother called her a whore
before she even knew what it meant,
how to spell it even, her mother's eyes
stabbing judgments into her back, so she did
what any kid who wants to survive a parent must do:
Their name (she said) was McCreary, a lovely family,
the son six, the daughter five, the wife
just lovely, charming, kind and the husband
busy and important: a secret government agent,
so she couldn't give her mother the phone number,
or the address to the house where she babysat;
it was a matter of government security, of course.
They had a summer home, too, near the lake,
and she had to go with them, and her brother
went too, a good role model for the son, they said.
They spent every weekend out there, all summer long
and her mother was so pleased, her eyes now
clear, now proud, asking the most important question:
"And what do they think of me?"
She gave the only possible reply:
"They think you're wonderful."
Years later, after the McCrearys moved away
and the girl grew up, made her own family,
a real one, she confronted her mother one day,
called her out for all her wrongs, her lies,
each nail she'd hammered in and she broke down,
cried: "I did the best I could."
It was the first truth the girl could remember
being spoken between them.