The Bad Daughter Walk

Four beads on a thread,

we were that close trudging

home, separated only by 

thick coats on this suddenly

spring afternoon amid the last 

puddles of melted slush

and forsythias sprouting buds.

Don’t step on a crack!

We shouted as we long-stepped

sidewalk square to square

in unison as beads shove beads

when you swing the string.

You’ll break your mother’s back!

I flinched, my step floundering

as I forgot to step long in step

with you all, my mind a flurry,

my mother lying still at the foot

of the sofa, then loaded onto 

the stretcher, daddy sobbing 

as the minister spoke, and me

motherless and broken by

slaughtering my mother with

carelessness so of course I stepped

short and landed on the crack,

scattering the beads in the gutter.



in your strong hands

that made fists

against loud mouths & pricks

in your unit

that made fists after shop class

in this first moment

she’s tender and malleable 

just after birth 

it’s your chance so grab it

and wrestle it down

exchange all that has gone 

before with this moment

of innocence 


but you let that slip


she’s six now

and it’s not all lost 

so you’ve made some mistakes

but see how her face turns

toward you like a sunflower

passing the day, full of

forgivingness, half trust

and half caution 

so exchange all that has gone

on in the past, your 

stigmas and sufferings 

and don’t make them hers


you missed another one


sixteen is the riskiest age

you see her as 

your mother, yourself, a strange

woman emitting a scent 

for males, a flawed human 

on the verge of making a granddaddy

of mistakes so although 

your mouth is wiped with the 

bitter tongue of fear 

stand still and turn around

before you react


I hope you didn’t lose her there


your calloused hands

hold her firstborn 

you feel her watching you 

deliberately, carefully

to see if she can trust you with

her own heartbeat

but you’ve always had 

a thumb on the rhythm



I grew up wondering if you knew

about that expanse between us.

Across the Monopoly game, as

I handed you tools while you built

a shelf for Mom, my fingers

unintentionally touching

your calloused ones that gathered 

to spank me red and stinging.

How could you have not sensed it?

I wonder if you thought us close 

like two palms pressed together, 

while the gusts that blew through

that passage picked up my flimsy

weight. You must have known

when I was old enough to date

and broke your rules, but maybe

you blamed the long-haired boys 

for leading me to the horizon.

When I had my own children and

when they grew up you were

careful near the wind-swept space,

understanding how easy it would be

for me to disappear where the sun

retreats. When you discovered you

were departing first as only proper, 

you said your sorries every day.

Propped against pillows, you looked

at me with your retreating eyes. And 

still I observed you from a great 

distance. On leaving for my plane, 

I offered my usual hug, the one where 

I leave my body for the duration

to maintain a lonely threshold. This 

time from a long way off I heard 

crying, branches shaking, and time

stretched out as if forever until I felt 

my arms around you for the first time.


Luanne Castle’s  Kin Types, a chapbook of poetry and flash, was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award.  Her first collection of poetry, Doll God, won the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Poetry. Luanne has been a Fellow at the Center for Ideas and Society at the University of California, Riverside.  She studied at the University of California, Riverside (Ph.D.); Western Michigan University (MFA); and Stanford University.  Her Pushcart and Best of the Net-nominated poetry and prose have appeared in Copper Nickel, American Journal of Poetry, Pleiades, River Teeth, TAB, Verse Daily, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Broad Street, and other journals.