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

or dying

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

in you.


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. 

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