Let Me Pass

The sky was the hollow side of a turtle shell,
its great, ashen backwater dome
rising over us.
The silent heaven was above it,
along with the silent God,

absent my shell,

I had spanned such
heights and breadth
and depths to reach.

But we were here,
a sagging low country store
on a hazy afternoon where the air
was heavy with Old Milwaukee
and Pall Mall.

It had not been long since
the day the old man had
put his hands on me,
when at twelve,
my shell had been
torn away,
and I was laid bare
and trembling, for the
height and depth of
the broad ashen sky came rushing,
crushing my self-understanding.
The roaring silence,

I was homeless.
I was unreachable.
I lay quiet in the backwaters,
hoping for nothing.

We tumbled out of the car
in the whiskey sun
and headed towards the door.
I was last.

Two men were standing
on either side of the screen door,
cracks crazing its white paint.

They were mountainous:
large, dark and craggy.

Cigarettes, the pungent smoke furling
in the air.
I walked to the door.

Ummm…fresh meat,
breathed the one on the left.
in the black t-shirt–he. the hunter,
and I,

a doe in the hunter’s sights.

Yeah…I’m gonna get me some of that pussy.
muttered the one in white, grinning, through
broken teeth.


A tidal wave of shame,
a flood of forgetting.

I stole away into
a hiding place,
in the backwaters,
where the old, wise turtles go.

I said nothing to anyone.
I got my Hershey’s
and a Coke.
The store was cool.
Old fans turned
without haste above me.
The floating light,
the aroma of old wood,
cedar and pine,
the new sensation of hope
the candy bar,
the chilled Coke
felt like hope
swimming and glad,
in my trembling hands.

I had not forgotten.
I waited.
In the swamp of
chocolate and soda
and salty stuff
I watched.

The men hadn’t left.

It was time to leave.
Silence echoed around the dome.
Fear came lurking through the grasses,
ripping like the backwater through my small body.
as I spoke quietly,

Let me pass.
Please, let me pass.

Melissa A. Chappell resides in South Carolina on land that has been passed down through her family for over 120 years. She is inspired by the forest, field and a plethora of wildlife. Besides writing, she also plays the piano, the guitar, the lute, and sings.. She shares her life with her family and two miniature schnauzers. Read other articles by Melissa A..