First: the tightness of a kitchen
and the reverberation of hushed voices
and faces like drawn curtains and mouths like red slashes
across broken faces and jagged nails bitten down to the quicks
and a lone package of expired cakes and a dusty vacuum cleaner overfilled with
someone elses stuff and forgotten in a corner, and our suitcase bulging, zipper stuck on
the tattered pieces of a denim skirt, knees gone from prayers that didn’t make it in time
and my hope that we might stay awhile, just the four of us (please be only four of us now)
and what a complete family we would make.
i cannot remember a bedroom
or even sleep–
only the return
to something like darkness
and the sweat creeping down my spine
like the claws of death
in the dark.
Then: freezing and catching your gaze
as you clutch the wall
then the carpet
then nothing at all
and you are pulled backward
away from me
your mouth agape, but without sound
our eyes locking and I, desperate but frozen
and you, unknowable. Unknown.
After: the chill of the car as we huddled
together, the only sound the sound
of your gasps as you clutched the wheel
and the plummeting in my stomach
as you turned the car around
and we again returned
and i bloodied my own tongue
and swallowed back my disappointment
Next: bitter blood beneath your chin
crushed deep into the dirt
the wish for nothingness, or else something else
and being pulled back to stand solemn
in a strangers hall while the adults marked each other
and no one saved you because you did not need to be saved
because love must begin and end
with bittersweet chastisement.
Later: the saccharine sweet of his smile made me sweat
and I hid from him and it
and wondered what it might mean
that the thought of him made me sick
and as i plucked pieces of sticks from my skin
i hated him
and i hated you.
i asked you once if you remembered
and you shuddered and offered me your tale
and it was unfamiliar and missing the jagged pieces
and i wondered why you needed the fiction
and perhaps i am the monster for making you remember
and for blaming you for making me believe
that one day we might tame dragons
that the laps of fire that slicks our skin
are tattooed reminders of their love
and our feigned control.
Now: again, in inherited form
passed, an heirloom, from father to son
like a broken watch that never did keep time.
and we play our roles, pretending
that we do not recognize the rage
the fury that makes the bones ache with knowing–
and you wonder what we did to make him. and unmake him.
and i wonder where we hide
that which is too painful to recollect.
and i remain silent,
standing sentinel over sorrowful remembrances;
janus faced and knowing
and never known.