She did not know her real name.
    Baby, they called her.
    Baby. Honey. Sweetheart. Sexy.
    Would you like another name?
    “Yes,” she said.

    She was in a small room with a webcam
    When I called to her. Gently.
    I gave her back her clothes
    and said we could watch cartoons
    after the doctor examined her.
    She asked where her mommy was.

    How can I say that mommies can hurt you?
    They can brush your hair, give you candy,
    and hurt you in ways you cannot yet understand.
    They can tell you things that are not true.
    They can teach you what you should not learn,
    not at five. Not at ten. Not ever.

    Explain safe to a child.
    Can you do that in words she can grasp
    with tiny, trembling fingers?
    If you can, please teach me.
    Show me how to explain what testify means
    without making her cry again.
    Tell me what to say when she asks,
    “Will my mommy go to jail?”

    She has stopped talking.
    She watches The Little Mermaid every day.
    She draws Ariel in red and green.
    She draws herself, alone on a beach.
    I do not know how to give her voice back.

    Tell me the words to a song
    That will turn her thin, oversized shirt
    into thick scales and a strong tail.
    Then I can bring her to the sea.
    I will carry her from shore to water,
    until we are submerged
    and with the push of a current
    her voice will return
    and we can speak.


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