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where began it?

Jess Woolford

where began it?

this sense: safety stolen?

was it back there?


where boys tracked

took you down shouting

pinned arms

legs to grass

to snow

rubbed liverish lips

across your own?

or back there?

childhood home

where parents’ new friends moseyed

sons in tow?

go play

so scaled stairs to room

you and sister shared: twin

beds arm’s length apart

snicked shut the door they did

those sweaty stranger boys

crowed we’re doctors

‘n you’re our patients

no one not your parents

nor theirs

heard a thing

while on your wall

the fonz grinned


or was it back there?

church basement

where village panty thief

snatched you off the line

cornered clutched you

demanding to see the thing

he called your vajee?

or was it maybe back there?

auntie’s house

where mother shucked your snowsuit

smoothed skirt

side-eyed uncle sofa-sprawled

said: remember don’t sit

on his lap

sent you seeking

cousin kin?

frantic you flapped

sidestepping his swoop some-

how seized sanctuary

in playroom

toys ten lincoln logs

battered type writer

or was it all the way back there?


where X transfixed X?

cataclysmic coupling

[beyond memory]

yes and yet

still you strain to see

just where you lost liberty


Jess Woolford

Jess Woolford is an essayist, memoirist, poet, and literary critic who lives and works on Treaty 1 Territory in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In addition to other publications, her poetry has appeared in The Ecological Citizen, Prairie Fire Magazine, and Contemporary Verse 2, while her life writing has been anthologized in Without Apology: Writings on Abortion in Canada and In the Company of Animals: Stories of Extraordinary Encounters. Woolford has also written for Social Politics, The Winnipeg Free Press, and The Winnipeg Review.


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