Bonnie and Clyde

Summer, 2013 / No. 30

The summer my parents destroyed everything

we pretended to be a normal family one last time

watched Bonnie and Clyde at the repertory cinema

then chugged home half asleep in Dad’s rusty blue car

divided and silent, to find a skinny couple looting our house

We entered to the rustle of cans

clatter of drawers being pulled out

They’d come for me, I realized

someone heard the call

of my bang bang heart!

Father didn’t notice my reaction

he never did, just grabbed my bantam bat

from the front hall and crept back outside

prowled through the darkness

while my mother, a tight-lipped firecracker

herded the pair into his backyard trap

It was late, but I could barely stand still

knowing Parker and Barrow had no reason to be there

except for me, they would find nothing of value

in our skeleton house, we were poor hippies—

didn’t own a television set, jewels, gold bars, cash

Just a broken cassette player that ate every tape

Dad swooped in, brandishing the bat

cornering them from behind like that outlaw Jesse James

forcing Clyde to grab some rusty fishing knife

that had scaled a thousand fish

but couldn’t slice bread

I wanted to tell them I’d come willingly

they could take me now and leave unharmed

I stepped out from around Mother’s legs

certain our kitchen held no mysteries

and saw it through their eyes:

a vault filled with treasure

Tell them why you picked our home! I hollered

but this woman was too plump to be Bonnie

and her man was too short for Clyde

She was already blasting our plaster ceiling

with a sawed-off shotgun and my parents flattened to the floor

I sighed. The couple fled into the night

Confused, I ran for a window

pressed my nose to the glass

praying they would come back for me

hoping to catch one more glimpse of my future

I waited all night, listening

to the wily soundtrack of police sirens

Dad was red-faced and shaking:

They could have grabbed you, held me hostage!

Why aren’t you more like your brother

who understands how to behave and hid in the closet!

Our home bore those gunshots for a lifetime

After Dad left I understood that change

only happens when the head lets go

Hardly anyone answers the beat

of my heart’s drum any more

Emily Pohl-Weary teaches at the University of British Columbia School of Creative Writing. Her book about her grandmother, Better To Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril, won the 2003 Hugo Award for non-fiction. She is the author of the poetry collection Iron-on Constellations and the novel A Girl Like Sugar. She first contributed to the magazine in 2001. Last updated fall, 2022.