Things you don’t talk about when you’re sixteen
She is the last one home that summer’s evening.
Delivered safely by her biker boyfriend
she goes straight to the new kitten, kneeling,
pushing back her long hair as she leans to scoop it up.
Then it’s all glass and noise—
she ducks, something
lands at her knees
her father’s voice out
out, she hesitates, looks
for the cat, no, his hand
on her back pushing
her brother still inside
fingers thick with fear
together they break the glass
shiver in the back garden
braced, pressed to the hedge
knowing what comes next
though the silence
that roars in its wake
Finally the sirens.
A fireman tells them it was a seven-second fuse.
The TV crew interview her dazed father, film the scorched house,
someone deposits the miracle kitten on her sedated chest.
They get the all-clear from A&E, will be rehoused
but not tonight. So they lie awake in the back bedroom,
wardrobe pushed against the door, no lights;
in the morning their hair and skin smell of smoke.
The wound made by broken glass still marks her hand.
After thirty-two years, she says, the hardest part
is knowing they waited until everyone was home.