“The Kitchen Floor” by Colleen Powderly

Chocolate poured on cement—that’s the color of childhood.
Of the floor in the kitchen, where squabbles played out
across the table, by the stove. Where secrets
crystallized between raw shrimp in the freezer.
The floor covered with toys, shoes, spilled milk,
and Daddy’s feet one day when I stepped on them—
he swore, yelled mine were too big.
Mama’s miscarriage one Saturday morning while
he went on prayer retreat. He was easier after those,
she said, told him to go despite the cramping. She called
me from cartoons to clean up blood. I was nine,
oldest, calming the others while I soaked
old towels, rinsed them in the toilet like diapers.

The next summer, expecting Daddy’s Yankee family,
Mama waxed that floor to a glossy shine. Fed up
by extra work, she grumbled. I parroted. She slid
across the floor then, bare feet skidding, begging him
to stop slapping her. My brother stood on the floor
near Thanksgiving that year, naked to the waist
while she salved belt buckle cuts on his back.
That floor held us all once or twice, eight people
walking, skidding, falling accidentally or by design,
along with blackeyed peas, dropped chicken bones,
cornbread crumbs, and greasy French fries.
Its chocolate colluded with my childhood
confusion, made pictures I still wake to see.

Born in Texas, Colleen Powderly lived in Louisiana before moving to Rochester with her family when she was 12. After receiving her MA in 1997, she worked at a number of full and part-time jobs, finishing with a three-year stint as a prison counselor. Her work reflects her Southern childhood as well as the struggle she experienced and witnessed while trying to make a living. Her work has appeared in HazMat Review, Fox Cry Review, The Palo Alto Review, RiverSedge, Sea Stories, MG2Datura, The Weekly Avocet, and The Centrifugal Eye.