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,

came out.