--BUT WHAT HAPPENS AFTERWARD? ISN’T THAT IMPORTANT, TOO?
…I think I’ve finally overcome the funk I’ve been in for a few weeks now. I’ve been writing finally, writing lots of dark poetry that feels like journaling.
Ignoring the Monster
Let’s not talk about broken rainbows or
the bruises around our daughter’s eye sockets,
the man/the monster she’s chosen over us,
his hoarfrost breath
bleeding hairy fog
across his cereal bowl
while the house is as still as stone
yet trembling inside its bones,
you on your way to a deposition in Great Falls,
afraid of myself
and the monster,
together and separate,
fearful of damage that cannot be revealed by skin alone.
Instead let’s pile dishes into the sink,
rinse and swirl blue milk down the drain,
dry our hands on a white towel,
kiss our once-little girl on the cheek,
nod goodbye to the monster without making eye contact,
collect our things,
and start another day fresh.
At Any Given Moment
I lived with monsters once,
not knowing for sure if I was one myself,
not knowing which of us would be the preferred target
at any given moment
because danger can be seductive
There were times when
I saw curls of fur
waft in the air
after an assault
on one of my siblings,
Dad’s sweat spackling the basement floor,
screams banging off the ceiling like wailing sirens,
a black-tongued leather belt lashing the air and skin
again and again
until I bawled like a newborn
with no breath to take.
An accessory is what I was then,
made into a monster nonetheless,
because the blood of a monster was the
blood that broiled inside of me.
Oh, but that was a lifetime ago.
Tonight at the dinner table,
two months removed from the funeral,
I finger a tuft of fur
inside the well of my pants pocket
beneath the dinner table,
thumb and forefinger working the monster’s fur as if coaxing out a genie
or starting a Boy Scout fire by hand.
I fork scalloped potatoes across my plate in muddy, taupe smears.
I clip four wilted peas diagonally on all four tines
and slur a gaudy self-portrait over the dish.
My wife asks why I’m so quiet lately.
She yawns but says
I really need to open up,
that talking often helps.
She says, “Memories are frail flags.”
“I t probably wasn’t half as bad as
If all the bad men in my life
got together in a single room
they would resemble a woman
who looked precisely like my mother.
She’s been dead for years now
yet she keeps showing up
in the smirks and smears,
the croaky cigarette coughing
of men bent on anger
baring bad wrist tattoos
and knuckle hair gleaming like black spires under the lamplight,
deer guts glinting purple-black off their skin.
A therapist might have a solution.
“Oedipus,” he’d say.
“You were simply in love with your mother.
I see that a lot, especially in men your age.”
But how wrong he’d be.
The Duty of Memory
One last time to remember K-Mart
and stealing squirt guns we’d never stock with bullets,
Dolly Parton and Buck Owens warbling
some kind of honky-tonk over steel guitar
while cigarette smoke wafted like steel wool clouds in the car
as Dad drove drunk around every winding curve the night
we were to pick up my brother from prison.
One last time to remember that tooth ripping punch,
the one that brought blazing sirens to our trailer park,
cops and EMT’s,
while inside we went at it nonplussed,
brass knuckles to the groin.
One last time to remember running away,
and kneeling on rocks in a corner with our hands up,
praying we could hold the stance for sixty minutes,
sixty minutes or else.
Tonight the will is executed,
and with it
all those scorpions
that have been tunneling inside for years,
brutal duty of memory.
What Makes You a Man
It all comes back in black and white,
the same as our old TV,
the one with the fake, wooden frame
and nobs as big as flapjacks,
someone’s blood on the paneling that could be coaxed off with a rag.
an arrow shot through the window above the kitchen sink,
eating canned army rations like some ragged, alley cat,
Dad saying quite deliberately,
“Eat up, you little fucker.
This is it.
This is what makes you a man.”