Broken Glass and Lemons
Virginia Carraway Stark
I was working for a bad man
He didn’t pay me or feed me
He made me sleep in a basement
underneath the Sternwheeler Restaurant
But it was better than being
In the house with him
And the woman he had taken
As a wife to him
This bad man I called ‘Dad’
I served drinks to strange men
At 3 in the morning after
He and my new ‘mother’ had long
Since gone to bed
I was not even 15 then
I remember one of the men said to me
That I poured the best tapped beer
He had ever seen
I smiled and asked him if he needed
Then ran to the kitchen to try
to get my homework done for the next day
I worked seven days a week
In those days of hell
I had only my friends
I fell asleep in class
And they asked about the bruises
and much later the broken wrist
Which should have stopped them from working me
but instead it just took me longer
One day I came home from school
I had a lot of work to do, my resources
They stopped hiring a dishwasher
In the daytime
So I could do the entire day’s work
When I came home
If I wanted food I had to come back
No lunches for me
They wanted me to come ‘home’
They could squeeze another 45 minutes of work
Out of me to pay for my meal.
Which I never had time to eat
(Shout out to the teacher who let me
eat in class or gave me time to eat
the monte cristo the cook who pitied me
made me to take away)
I was so tired.
They had pushed me too far
Yelling more tasks to do, hurry up
too slow too slow why are you so slow
hurry hurry hurry or else
I was being dressed down
I had missed a spot on one of the dishes
I stood with two glasses in my hands
A rage building inside me
That it was never ever going to be enough
The glasses I held exploded in my hands
I have no explanation for it
but they both exploded at the same time
Blood poured down my hands and arms
I looked at my Dad
Who watched the blood streaming down my forearms
He left while I picked the glass from my fingers and wrist
I thought he would bring back first aid things
hygenic gauze, scissors, tape
He brought back a large square metal container
(The type all restaurants use)
And a sharp knife.
He put the container of lemons into my bloody hands
still filled with chips of broken glass
“Cut those all, then you can have your break.”
Those were the days when I always obeyed
Those were the days I never stood up for myself
I took the lemons and in
I cut them into wedges
Each and every one.
When I was finished my Dad looked down
His eyes as cold and dead to me as a lizards
But there was smug pleasure there too
Dancing far behind the cold
“Wash the blood off of them and you can go for your break”
In retrospect, I don’t think those lemons
Were exactly what the health department
Had in mind.
Lemons, glass and my blood sacrifice.
A part of me died that day.
The part that loved my dad what I had thought was unconditionally.
The part of me that had always obeyed.
To all the Gods and Goddesses who promise
Love and Mercy
Take the offering of that day
Lemons and glass.
Blood streaming off of me.
A child’s trust gone forever.
Let him pay in this life and next.
Evil coward lizard that he is.