start late-- come into the world
all screaming face and flailing limbs
and grasping fingers
that hold to the womb, the room
you've lived. welcome a brother
before you have learned what the word
should mean; before you are carried
on the shoulders of another brother;
before you can begin to understand
the responsibility of you. watch yourself,
your existence, tear apart your family--
be the reason she wants him to leave,
be the reason he can't control
himself. be the reason two brothers
don't understand a father's love.
drown. be flailing limbs and stolen breaths
and splashing water and your father's hands
holding you down. when he is bored,
gulp for breath, gulp for air; don't let yourself
remember this for long. drown again, drown
again; each scenario a different prison,
and you, barcoded into bravery you don't feel,
can't breathe. trail a teddybear from loose fingers,
but be a big girl. stumble over words
like daddy and love and no, no, no,
please. fall up stairs instead of down,
break in ways big brothers can't heal
and heal breaks little brothers can't imagine.
fight-- let the fire inside you ignite flames
of passion and anger and injustice
and independence. press against walls,
push at boundary lines like bedtimes;
stand out as the feisty one. be different
in a family of introverts; ache for friendship,
sleepovers and the sort of childhood
you'll never know. wonder why your mother
bakes differently when it's for you; wonder
why your father never looks at you the same
when your mother's there.
wonder who is eating the cake she didn't bake
when your birthday rolled around.
keep everyone too close and cry only because you feel--
cry when you are disappointed or sad or sometimes
just because you are. fight once too heavily
and find yourself bereft. live again with a father
who wants you in the wrong ways. become
a woman; become a mother, briefly,
long before you are ready. bury him,
bury it and forget. do well in school but fall
sometimes, deepening into yourself. be abandoned,
again, back to your mother. change schools
and be someone's sister instead of just you; fail.
teach yourself to swear because the bullies
think you're too uppity; learn for yourself--
cruelty comes in too many forms.
try university and be too sick-- cry too often,
flirt with bridges or medicine and a machete
to lay your muscles bare. marry
because you're young, you're in love;
ignore the way he controls your money
and tells you not to eat that. teach yourself
not to swear because you hate the feeling
of his fist against your face, and because he tells you
ladies don't swear. wear clothes that aren't comfortable.
ask, ask, ask again, 'can we please have a baby now?'
carry your infant for only weeks instead of months
and wonder how the world continues for everyone else.
love freely. be a deep lover, a heavy lover,
be a heady lover. clasp people to your breast,
grasp things to your chest. love him most.
be surprised the day he wants a divorce and fight
for a marriage he hasn't wanted for
far too long. keep loving. try to remember
how you're supposed to let go.
keep loving anyway and let love
be the anchor you hold to. be adopted by a family,
and a man, and a dog. love them all,
fiercely, deeply. give them everything you have
and everything you are. let them guide you,
let them teach you what you have been missing--
learn what it means to let yourself be loved.