Everything and everyone here is turning against you

and I remember your lithe hands over me looking for a way in, but my body was fanged

and scoured to bones and wires. I wished I could believe in the soul,

but it would have been just another broken thing in me.

There’s so many ways a father can grab a son. And every way you grabbed me marbled my skin.

I remember lightning bugs sparking like matches in a tomb.

I was scattered into summer dark,

sick with the gluttony of pain. I remember my back shoved against the apple tree,

knees squelching in mud, that first time I bristled, dizzy and blind,

piebald shapes coiling in the blackness of my shut eyes, mouth swamped in blood.

Remember my fist, rising. Red clots in the pokeweed.

Enough heat in my skull to cook marrow.

I don’t remember momma yelling. It was just a horse whinnying.

I’ve carried it quietly a long way, this tattoo with no mark.

I didn’t know any better: all my friends were bridled with the mark of their father’s belt.

this poem’s title is borrowed from Yusef Komunyakaa’s poem “Songs of My Father”

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