Dead to Rights

Joan McBride


He caught them by their heels
as they ran through the automatic doors.
Two pre-teens with crackly voices and
torn jeans.  He caught them and they stumbled,
spilling ill-got groceries out of their
puffy coats: loaf of white bread, two packages of cold cuts,
six-pack of applesauce, jar of peanut butter, a bar of soap.

The two kids, who claimed to be siblings,
went to Juvie because they wouldn’t give
their names.  They ate the wicked overcooked
food, asked for seconds, drank milk like water,
stared at the hardened cookies but spent
half an hour eating them with tender mouths,
after each bite the cookies stained red.  

No one claimed them, no one reported them.
No names were found, the state had them
dead to rights.

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