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Words of Fire

Christmas Eve, 1984, “Motel X”

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It’s 10 p.m. when the taxi glides
                           into the rain-slicked parking lot.
A woman in slippers gets out
                 bundling a baby in her arms.

Next, comes a small boy dragging a shopping bag
                           filled with a jumble of clothes.
“Your room is Number 9,” I say pointing,
                 and the woman hurries towards it.

As we follow, I lift the bag from the boy,
                           his face and neck dark with bruises.
When we reach the door, he stops, asks,
                 “Will he find us here?”

I want to say, No, honey,
                           that bastard will never find you here.
Instead, I whisper, “Who?”
                 His voice, a twist of worry and hope, he says,

“Santa.”

Cece Peri’s poems have appeared in Gift of Words: Poems for the Iraqi People; Luvina: Los Angeles Issue (University of Guadalajara); Speechless the Magazine; NoirCon 2010 and NoirCon 2012 (Busted Flush Press), and Malpais Review. During the Reagan era, she worked as a crisis counselor in women’s shelters and community health centers.

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