He built himself a sanctuary in the old garage
to shelter from his mom’s complaints, his stepfather’s barrage
of insults that he spewed out whenever he drank beer
and his teenage stepson happened to be near.
He frequented the shadows of their viral house.
Took shelter in the attic, quiet as any mouse.
Hid out in the garden in a cave of loam.
Anyplace his stepfather was not became his home.
His meals lacked spice and savor also missing in his mother.
Her meals furnished nutrition, but very little other.
No laughter flavored mealtimes. The food rendered no spice.
He secreted small bits of food—a slice of bread, some rice—
to feed to his companions—a family of mice.
It was worth the beatings that he’d suffered twice
when that man not his father saw him hide away
some morsel in his pocket and said he’d have to pay.
Raising his fist, he said he would take it from his hide
and gave another beating to the boy who never cried.
The boy who simply stored it up—kept all of it inside—
bore the abuse stoically and then crept outside
to commune with his real family who lived in wall and rafter
of the garage he’d made his home, and filled with love and laughter.
They came out at his bidding, swarmed around his feet
to eat a bit of porridge, some carrot or a beet.
Some crackers from his school lunch, some lettuce or a plum,
proved the presence of a heart that otherwise was numb.
Mice frequented his pockets and sat upon his shoulder—
every generation seeming to grow bolder.
They slipped into his mother’s house when she was sound asleep
and crept into those places where he could never creep.
They nestled in her shoes and chewed out all the toes,
severed all her bra straps, gnawed holes in all her hose.
They found the belt the monster man used to beat their friend,
dragged it deep under the bed and chewed it end-to-end.
When they crept into the larder to finish off the pie,
it must have been an accident that the can of lye
spilled into the sugar, pouring out in one fine stream
right into the bowl that would be placed beside the cream
on the breakfast table. For how could it be
that vermin knew only the man took sugar in his tea?
The prompt words today are sanctuary, garage and nutrition.