Each phase of my childhood was marked by the death of another child, but my parents didn’t worry much, and I spent summer afternoons nowhere to be found. It was the most useful thing I’d taught myself, to move through life unnoticed. I could put authority figures at ease, make myself small enough on busses and planes, disappear into crowds when a man trailed me down the street or around the mall. Once my family, returning from vacation, drove for hours through the eye of a category-two hurricane, and its otherworldly calm lured me into relaxing though the strongest part of the storm circled us. I remember its name: Bob. Generic and unthreatening. It caused more than a billion dollars in damage. The following month, a woman sat alone at a table facing the Senate Judiciary Committee and spoke into a microphone about the way her boss had treated her. I learned what it was called so when, years later, an interviewer groped my thigh, and a coworker slapped my butt, and a manager assigned me a new project while staring at my breasts, at least I had a name for what they did to me, and I thank her for that, for her voice, which, the moment I heard, I trusted.
This poem is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.