She took her clothes off
for money, but that was OK
since for me they fell for free.
We'd met again eight years later
and it seemed some sick joke
which we foolishly pursued
for a few months.
You may remember them:
the ones when I seemed crazy--
really crazy.
It started as a pit stop
but became a destination
as toxic as the Chinese sky.
We ignored her monthly
with a black towel
and her profession
with the same.

She loved yellow flowers
so I brought them every week
although I wasn't working.
They were her mother's favorite
until she died a year prior.
The color of cowardice
didn't make sense until the end.

I'd watch my girl get ready:
makeup, hair, packing bits of lace--
putting her war paint on, she called it.
She'd text me all night from the club
counting down the hours
until she could crawl into bed with me
after a sad shower
rinsing lavender and glitter
but when she disappeared
for too long my mind wandered
and it stung.
One night I woke up
to her pulling piss-soaked sheets
off the mattress; three empty bottles
of wine and some whiskey
on the counter.
That was the worst of it.
After that it got better.
She framed a poem I wrote her
and it was on her bedroom wall
until she ripped it up
one night when it got worse again.
I'd thrown her flowers on the floor.
All of them.

Others knew her stage name
but I knew her real name
and that her stepfather raped her
until she was eleven
when she told her mother
who did nothing
so cancer killed her.
How can a man
who's worth a damn
blame a woman
so detached
when life
does that
to a kid?

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