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To Loretta

Years ago I wiped your runny nose, problem child in a room full of curious children.

Some twisted and broken; you were whole,

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though you duck-walked into tables

and toys flew out of your grasp.

In the bitterest of winters

you came to school, no socks

week-old dirt caked on your smile.

We bathed you, took off the too large

skirt, too small shoes,

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and saw the welts,

blue wounds from a sinking father.

Your wraith of a mother, babe in arms,

peered from the window,

while brother Billy, ten at most,

pulled you down the frozen hill on his sled.

Your shrieks broke the morning into particles

that caught in my throat.

Sometimes I went up through the drifts

to carry you, slipping with your bulk

and the red coat that smelled of kerosene.

Loretta of the blue eyes,

I still carry you down that hill,

away and away.