We are the sum of
absent parts too fractured
for our fathers to pass
on to us

pride & hugs
admissions of love
they harbor like empty
perfume bottles long
bereft of scent I remember
what it meant to live like
a squatter in my own home

welcoming my brother into
the bedroom I’d amp up the
speakers when screams
punctured the walls in stereo

when burning precious gas
dollars down back roads with
no center line or sunsets in
an abandoned cemetery felt
like the only freedoms I was
loathed enough to know
before my absence was missed
in an otherwise confined
existence my presence a
tolerated mandatory sentence

I daily wondered how someone
so disgusted with me
could care whether or not I was

Your generation is not the first
to seek an amputee home
though transience has become
a pathogen passed through the
water each year the mortality rate
grows younger & I wonder
what remission might be missing
if the wounds were only allowed
to fester a bit longer

My feet trod through
land mines of a battle
I was drafted in I
contemplated pastor’s basements
and then-boyfriend’s parents’
spare bedrooms
rather than wait for the misstep
I thought would solidify the sum
of all those fractured parts I knew
the breaking would be inevitable

But I waited.
I stayed.

You know, when the blast came
I was too numb to feel it.
All those flesh wounds hieroglyphed
each what, where, when
But I remember him being
more stunned by my apathy than
I was when the gingerbread house
caved in

By then I felt neither love
nor hate for the man who had
damaged me so much
the blessed coma of indifference
was a victory

And if that was the end of my story
I’d say to you
run & never look back

Instead I urge you Love
go back
Live to fight another day.

In the short term was
cease fire coldness
his first “I love you”
felt as foreign & intimate
as a rape
it’s been fifteen years
since that date and I’ve
risen from those ashes to

There’s Healing in
understanding our fathers
and that Mending is
cause ghosts breed monsters
and we have to see them
for what they are
to keep ourselves from
slipping into that impalpable
grey likeness of hereditary

Though their stories are dissimilar
at the core of our fathers is the same
guarded barricaded hunger
wanting to be loved but not knowing
how to give what they haven’t received
those instincts long buried with the dead
& with the rejectors & with the ones who
kicked them out of houses, made them
feel their lack of worth was a brand
under their skin they could never wash
out, these men emanate hurt
like steam rising from

Nothing can resonate from a heart
iron-walled in, only if it be that
Pavlovian rejection, they do not realize
the imbalance of criticisms they pay us
with no praise or the silence we take as indifference
Pinter moments are all they have to offer us
but we weren’t taught to read their eyes like Braille
and they never recognized that the work of their hands
fashions a mirror symmetry of brokenness

Love, I’ve looked at your dad and seen the
kindness he wishes he could give you
buried beneath that rough veneer I fear
his asking you to stay was the closest to
an admission of love as he could give you

There’s a heart breaking for you under all
the inner shit he can’t claw through to
be what you so desperately need him to be

Know how I know?
A week before my wedding, my dad
threatened to kick me out for the millionth
time, all because he found a dirty cup in my room
and on the day of my wedding, my brother came home
and found him sobbing. To this day, on the rare occasion
that I get an ” I love you” it’s delivered with the reticence
of a dog waiting to be kicked. it’s been hard for me to
parent love to someone who’s been animal wounded
and tried to pass that heirloom on to me

but my hatred, and numbness, and hurt
are healing over. I wish Dad’s would but
he’s still trodding land mines, shouldering the
burden of hereditary curses on tired shoulders

So is your dad
because deep down our fathers don’t believe
they deserve our love
so they covet theirs greedily

But Love,
I tell you all this
because your tender spirit is
at that same precipice
and I’m filling up the emptiness
with true stories & fretting &
tears & prayers because

At this crossroad
We have one of two ends

Make peace with the enemy
Or become them.