my father’s a drink first fist first kind of guy

he’s consistent in that way

he barely talks 

when he does I shrink away

 

his anger is a low burning coal mine

his dense geological pressure

terrorizing people he brands

with the fear of his love

 

i convince myself

maybe he’s through this time 

i’ve seen his full rage

so often

 

each morning he sees me again

the weak boy

effete, artistic, tearful

the easy target 

that won’t fight back

 

(sorry, this is not the beginning. roll backwards. reset.)

 

i grew up a weed 

in a stone garden 

hiding in a dry crack

our pesticide flavoured family

invisible behind spiny leafless vines, 

creaking fences

 

(why is this interesting. why should you be concerned. i’m not sure i am.)

how many times

the police put my father 

in tight vine chokeholds

his wrists in thorny metal

father without breath

smiling without worry

away in a night 

a day 

a few days 

he comes back 

shrinking like an apologetic puppet

apoplectic about his repetitious sins

lying so humbly

mom cries out forgiveness

because she has no choice

they drink like lovers

thrash like legless cows 

(i need to apologize. these aren’t events I should be writing about. secrets should be kept.)

15 now

i wear my father’s brand

visible and invisible

my medical records 

ignorant of truth

the centre of how we know each other 

bruises stitches x-rays 

dislocated shoulders broken ribs

all ad-hockey injuries 

we say if someone asks

no one bothers

 

(this secret i should never tell. it’s always dangerous. i shouldn’t trust you)

my father has a massive stroke

not suddenly as people say

predictably but not soon enough

not massive enough

 

one breath lost — chance of survival

two lost breathes — brain dead

three lost breathes — simply dead

 

(i have better sense than this. i cannot hope for these things)

 

he lingers like a cold hallway shadow

he’s a bag of bones

a major intersection of iv drips

tubes, machinery and needles 

incoming nurses and doctors

outgoing family traffic cops

 

i wonder why i don’t simply leave now

what do i need to know

is he stirred by my scars he only knows about

is my face in his witches roiling cauldron

 

i wonder what it would be like 

to garrote him like watery cheese or 

choke him with my fingers

i get lost in these hypnotic thoughts 

and others like them 

too often

 

(this isn’t what I think now. it’s not right. i take the words back, swallow my guilt. i’m used to that kind of thing.)

 

at the hospital

i hear the corridor voices 

talk about what best to do 

my dad won’t improve 

a voice says he deserves dignity 

no matter his life

 

i spit and gag, taste bile in my throat

i see myself in virtual reality

pulling his life out of an electrical outlet

beep     beep    beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee 

he goes flat line

let’s go home

let’s be fuckin’ pragmatic

 

(i don’t regret this yet. i know what you’re thinking. that history indicates that inevitably i will live with guilt . . . . . for a long time)

 

i hear someone cry

like a pigeon 

i can’t understand why

the dr. assures us 

he will feel no pain

 

i’m ready to murder 

to hear it will be excruciating

i’m a suicidal zealot

to bring on searing pain

i’m a serial killer for 

his death and resuscitation each day 

until we forget how to count days

 

(i’ve said so many things i could never say to his face. i’m a coward. like he always said)

 

i know what he taught me

the small comfort of mortality 

the long life of guilt 

i know i learned like a baby

the relief of standing up

 

it’s a perfect circle 

a father and son 

in these cruel revolving consequences

from a crying start

to a flat-lined end

 

(sorry you read this. it’s all wrong. roll the words back. restart. don’t press repeat)

life i and i and my dad 

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