today we try leaving three times. / 1 the howls subside. they find me, back steps, reading a book. simultaneously start to apolo- i don’t want to hear it. dad, dog-armed, springs back inside. says mom and i should just go. so we do. / one km of silence then a wordless U-turn to the house that swallows her. back in my spot, my book. i don’t leave. don’t take their only reminder for why this house in the first place. // 2 dad comes, palm quiet between my shoulder and neck. / maman in the driver’s seat, dad and dog in the back. me, the passenger. their terse hot breath. volatility bouncing off windows. picking up speed as we sit in the driveway. i pull at nylon til my thigh gapes open. voices are like liquids, i think. they bulge into the shape of their container. as their crescendo becomes me. as i curl up into the heaving of a train. explode. dad and the dog lift out the door. // i’m buckled in so we sit. side by side. hand over hand on the stick shift. dressed for her grandmother’s funeral. / i find him on the too big couch. a torn plastic bag packed for our trip — plaid pajamas, fraying brush — looks so much like something else. / she comes into my room to give me the chocolate she meant to share on the road. // 3 the third time it works, and on the way back, having retrieved little brother, she and i sing him old lullabies. he hums along, pillow mouthed, warm, as we rush through the dark.
we have a backyard now, its leaves a drowsy good green. the pool, floating petals. quaking. she planted fake flowers. he watered them. we have a backyard now. they scream. their voices neighbourhood echo like basketball kids. we have a pool now. the pipes scream as we fill it. dad says it’s all that water, creating a vacuum. we have pipes, screaming. a vacuum. all that. water. // when it’s all over there is somehow still light, moving the sky.
august 2, maybe
we settle in a booth meant for longer legs. vinyl red that would cling if it weren’t air-conditioned midnight. facing each other, clacking menus, talking god/ a great lack. we peel our smoked meat like stolen time. until she calls and he picks up and the waiter through thick glasses asks if i want more water. i don’t hear but he brings it anyway. he pours and smiles at my cup, at me, as a marriage keeps disintegrating. i smile back. i think: it’s nice to catch someone’s eye. to flit back while they rip receipts. sweet. something shared. i think: in months this is the closest i have been to even a semblance of desire. so far from still feeling fingers, striped touch fossilizing over my hips. ears rocking like a tossing ocean. // i’m still nibbling is what i say when he comes to collect our plates. which is dad’s verb/ which can’t be because i’m speaking french. dad, phone to face, silent, worse than words. he flicks his head at the door which means that in fact i am done. we heave ourselves out from our seats, my thighs chilled still peeling away. my twitching calf. my blistered heels. thank you, i say. goodnight. // humid city. my mother murmurs. i learn the hour because someone announces it. this is the best way to tell time: to hear it yelled, love in its minutes. // we each drive a car, a long story but not really, and we smile or grimace at the first few stoplights. but one glance back he is big-mouth shouting, probably on speaker. objects in mirror are closer than they appear. i accelerate. // the desk clerk is politely suspicious. we are bagless. it is late. // to somehow feel clean, to be alone in fluorescence, i deplete two complimentary toothpaste envelopes and slap a bar of soap to my armpits. i pull on my same clothes. minus underwear, wet and limp. // i think: i’m defensive because some of me is like that some of him. i have my own kernel of hard cruelty which is a seed and will germinate. i know, mostly, that this is not true. that he is doing his best like anyone. mostly, i wish someone would tell me what they tell kids which is it’s not your fault. but i’m not a kid and so maybe it is. and like a kid i can’t help but think my gaspthought the first time i hid from their yelling at six (divorce!) is the dark rot that made the whole thing decay from the inside. deflate like a peach which looks sweet but is flour. // my mom texts it isn’t a party what your dad did. when he didn’t believe me. i know. but also, here am i, and i see: a wilting body flushed an unnatural red. my only father. who takes the sofa bed, who insists. who says, queen bed for queen bee! who has never called me this. // suspended green numbers squint forever or 4:00. he snores his thunder. i think: i could leave. i could walk into that hallway where the light is always on. to the streets where they shriek high heel stumbles. where green eyes glow with their own lost hour. instead i stay and text josh our old jokes, my stifles snorting just like sobs.