It is their family ritual for the year.
Balanced against the wall, each one – eyes bright,
faces straight ahead, heads high –
giggling at the soft pressure of the pen
as their mother marks their gradual rise through childhood.
Each year, her brother’s growth an aspiration;
the height she wants to be.
Later a man will press her up against that wall,
his thumb digging – bright, sharp, accurate –
into the fleshy hollow below her jaw,
pressing against her larynx.
And she will no longer wish to be that height –
the height that lifts her level with his anger,
feeling the prickle of his sour-breathed fury hot against her skin.
His thumb is all jagged pain now, pressing deep
into the softness of her windpipe
and when she gasps the once, she cannot gasp again.
She is little more than a fierce, low gasp of fear;
her rib cage emptied and compressed
into unforgiving bricks
as her body is driven up into the wall.
Nothing to measure here.