In trying not to think of you —

you stand gently in the doorway of my mind

wearing a burgundy suit, your hair coiled and perfect

and the irony of that is not lost

just as the things I can’t ever say—

will be felt anyway; in grief, in joy, in moments

as I tuck my own wayward hair behind my ear, so like yours

silver dangling like stubborn salt

straighten my posture from its comforted slouch

recalling your slender wishbones, in balletic poise

words unuttered; we stretch, vast, across oceans

in different languages, lost to storm and history.

I wonder sometimes what you’d say if I tried another approach

instead of bowing to your buttoned dismissal

let you know; I will not let history reoccur—

cease loving; put it in a drawer somewhere

declare it unworthy, tainted. I will love you

until we both cease, unwound by hand

keys in a quiet music box, hoarse and rusting to earth.

For music plays despite us—

its belligerent soundtrack seeps into our lives—

we hear it when we bathe, in the hollows of old taps

music pressing behind kitchen tiles, as we prepare dinner

even the tails of our clothes, catching autumn leaves

pluck a chord

indivisible; that which bound us tight

long before language had any knives.

I would say; I am not the son you wanted, I am not that reflection

wished for, cultivated briefly in absentia.

Perhaps you would have responded to my being cruel

but ultimately I plant only love—

which repulsed you, because love let you down

and you never believed when I said you mattered to me

more than any part of myself. Though O God

they were the most honest words I have ever uttered

just as my heart may break and reconfigure, on

the dark feather that is you, unrequited and

burning still, the very furnace I persist by—

even as you see no need for such attachment

I weave it into my clay, this welcome subject.

In a world possessing too little oxygen, for more deliberated hurt

I have changed since I was your daughter

I wear bras with wire now, despite our

mutual fear of cancer, I decide when to risk and when to

resist, you don’t know me as well as you think anymore.

I have a secret life, I wear heels in my dreams, the color

of ox blood, I take lovers like cards from a fanned pack

I am fearless in ways you couldn’t imagine, I have

faced the Devil and let him win, only to leap

blazing from his pit—knife in my smiling mouth.

I am strong in ways you don’t recognize, having built

your strawman of me, and condemned it to pyre

you think you know, but none of us really do—

even family are strangers in unsuspecting season

we should all acknowledge that by now …

they say a holiday isn’t a holiday, without family

I canceled my celebration and packed away

the candles and tinsel— but that doesn’t mean I don’t laugh

when running in thrift store clothes with my friends

through warm rain—singing Peter Gabriel songs at

the top of our voices—all things you would condemn

I know. But if you knew me really, from the other side

of the mirror, saw me through eyes without guile—

you’d like me all over again. Canceled malice

evaporating years of consternation, right

back to the beginning, when all was possible—

just like when I turned 13 and you said;

here’s a chance to be anything! And I was. Just

not what you wanted me to be. It’s too late

now to change the course of our star—

but she is bright yet

every time I ride my bike

in dusk, I see her—

cresting softly, a reminder

you are always with me and

I —am always with you.

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