That summer in Brooklyn the streets were hot to the toes,
asphalt like fire on our feet.
Uncle Mike sent my Isabella to the corner store
to buy a pack of Camels, which would heat up this tin can
of an apartment even more
on this June day.
Isabella could hardly unglue herself
from the full length wavy mirror.
This was her first communion day
and she was a miniature bride,
the white enfolding her
like a prayer or Aunt Helen’s homespun doilies.
But she was dutiful and obedient
Knowing Uncle Mike would be grumbly without his cigarettes,
So she abandoned the mirror.
I heard her white patent leather shoes
Tap down the wooden staircase to the vestibule below
where she was silenced by the red runner rug.
She was gone too long for a pack of Camels.
Far too long.
Just when we had decided to look for her,
knowing she was probably transfixed
by the candy counter at Martuzzi’s store,
we heard those shoes, slowly now, ascending the stairs.
As she stepped in the door,
the Camels dropped to her feet
like a thud of discarded playing cards.
I looked at the tips of her shoes covered with red
saw the blood drippling down her legs,
Like rivers suspended, misplaced waters.
Only later did we learn,
two weeks later when she finally spoke,
that a man had pushed her down behind Martuzzi’s,
pushed himself into her hard and without sound.
She held onto the Camels, tight in her hand, so she wouldn’t scream,
so she wouldn’t feel him where he wasn’t supposed to be.
That night I remember packing away
the veil and the little bride’s dress
and the shoes
covered with red stains
that never, ever,