“Caught” by Jada Gossett

Jada Gossett

Caught

She finds herself wandering the after-school playground
on tall leaning metal twists of uncertainty,
starting a new life after what once was stable.
A single push of the memory of Dad packing his bags
gives her all the momentum to keep the
two-by-three arc of her turns:
an effort to keep her head on straight by making
Everything Else spin.

The slide keeps this six-year-old girl occupied,
swiveling between houses of outgrown love,
curving tightly into itself.
“Three-times-five is fifteen” she rotes in preparation
for a cruel test of aptitude forced on a kid
who can barely hold her pencil straight from the trauma
of a cycle where she only sees Dad on Saturdays.

On a different dawn she finds the merry-go-round,
her head much taller than the guarding bar now,
half of her stressing about a boy in class, and half
watching over brothers of a new family,
five and eight, tossing crunch golden leaves.
They don’t really need her there but the gap between
eight and thirteen justifies her presence in her mother’s eyes.

Thirteen through twenty-one years stretch beyond their time,
or at least that’s what the dissonance between
her mind, the dates on the calendar,
and her syllabi shouted out to the gaping darkness
of that same after-school playground.
She sprints a perfect arc in the dark looking for answers,
or an escape from the spiral where she got caught
between battles of two sets of families
that would never make one whole.