Self-Portrait as a Shovel


By H.K. Rainey

When you're twelve years old
He begins touching you where he shouldn't.

You're sitting in his lap
while his hands, wide as spades,
move closer to your breasts.

This is him,
teaching you how to break
everything you love.

You feel like a shovel
in the broom closet,
constantly in the wrong place.

You belong in the shed
with the rusty hammers
and hatchets

for driving spikes deep
and splintering things apart.

You belong with all the other tools
men use.

For years, you keep quiet
like the shovel saying,
"Shhhhh. Shhhh."

You keep your head down
and you keep digging.

At last, you're standing on the edge
of the depthless pit
you've excavated.

At sixteen, you tell your mom.

She says it never would have happened
if you hadn't put yourself
in the wrong place.

She pushes you in.
Tells you never to speak of this again.

Get over it, the shovel says.

In every family
there must be someone
who buries things.


H.K. Rainey holds an MFA from Mills College in Oakland, California. Her work has appeared in journals such as Jacket Magazine, Cider Press Review, Sand Canyon Review, The Walrus, Bang Out SF, and Corium Magazine, as well as several anthologies. She lives, writes, and teaches in Jacksonville, Florida.