steady/22

by poems & doodles

you used to tell me stories
about your gurgling father,
your childhood
night terror.

a whisky-fueled
stranger whose twitching
fingers often mistook
a branch for a belt
but only when
snapped against the backs
of your tender legs,
forcing you
to buckle down on hands and knees
before him, where you left
tears and imprints,
salt and skin offerings
for the hope of mercy.

you speak less of your
quivering mother,
your first
unrequited love.

a gaze-turning
deserter whose
fingers trembled, never
leaving the downward bend
of her wrinkle-lined
lips.
they looked
the way an apple does
when it’s left to sour
in  the sun: shriveled and
collapsing in on itself.
you’d say, only ever
comparing her to
rotting fruit.

and when you see that
i’ve noticed
the shake of your hand
you say,
sometimes, there is
not enough to offer
to the hope of mercy.

and you steady.

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