MY SON, ELDEST (15 YEARS): Cringes at the smell of porcelain dolls and their paper skirts. Only speaks riddled phrases in the nighttime by my bedside. Is silent except for the parrotlike cawing. Is silent excluding rickety nails against blackboard walls. Makes his own bibles and burns them. Uproots neighbors’ garbage cans looking for vintage tinsel trees. Uproots classic furs looking for garbage. Conjures dementia in the young. Rips big life from brush already dead in a hot sun. Plays harp loudly in the street. Wears wartime bodies in these cold months. Tests patience by nature. Wraps presents in twine and bird nests. Asks for these things on his birthday: tweezers, rough drafts, blueprints, scorch. Asks for these things for Christmas: loose hair, cushions, bamboo, straw. Kept losing the housekeys inside the strays. Belts the armoire to atone for my sins. Grabs my hand and takes me to a mountain of loose change in his special spot, in his clubhouse, in the violet forest, just to see me smile.
MY DAUGHTER, MIDDLE (10 YEARS): She once made me a cup of coffee out of roses and vignettes she found in the basement vines. She tells me stories of how she was young once too, and she tells me of how I shouldn’t worry. My daughter plays the flute so quietly only the mutts may perform the sing-along. When she’s late, her mouth opens and poetry slides out in teary chapbooks. When she’s early, we just sit and gulp her air. She learns languages as easy as tapdancing or calculating harmony. She leaks a colorful fizz that bubbles stains from the carpet. How she loves to tickle me from far away. How she loves to hold my head as I sleep and nightmare. She is a dreamcatcher. She is an ancient remedy. Her herbs are picked fresh every day. Sometimes, she almost tells me she loves me.
MY WIFE, COMMON LAW (OF 20 YEARS SINCE 20 YEARS): The woman who picks perennials in the rough edges of January to vase them for December. The girl who once fell asleep talking and never stopped. The dramatist who cries dark blood wine. The womyn who spits cherry leisure when she laughs. The model citizen who commits atrocities daily. The mail carrier who burns the letters of unwelcome typeface. The blooming cocktail with indigo feathers nesting in her matted hair. The blossoming nuclear of wrong turns made right. The bird broken still calling in the snow. The legion of chandelier nails that dangle above me while she turns the back knots loose. The activist throwing sunflowers at tear gas. The chemical reaction made part one red part two gloom part three sensory cataclysm. The fire sale composed of old dolls and photographs stained black by the sun. The heart pumping coal and sinister fumes. The bastard child. The bastard. The licking on everyone’s wounds, even yours. The pistol primer. The spice grinder. The mortar and pestle smashing coffee grounds and chicory and ennui. The Mrs. Hamilton next door. The Ms. Griswold after the war. The yearning. The body looming over dead. The killer. The fugitive. The deceased.
MY BROTHER, ADOPTED (AT 12): We were talking about God once. It was in the snow out in Quebec on vacation. White rolling hills kept us moving forward and away. I was wearing flannel everything. He was barely clothed. We asked each other if we believed. I said no, and his face curled into a terrible wriggling melt. He asked me why with eyes wide open. I gave him several reasons. Cruelty, deceit, betrayal. Vomit, hangovers, hangnails. But there is so much to be thankful for, is what I heard within the steam cauldron between his perfect teeth. I heard, I am thankful for you and for Mom and for Pops. He heard, and so am I, but what does it matter? But God created them and us and everything around us and everything we can’t even see. And if there is no Creator, then what’s the point of being thankful? Why do we feel thankful, when, in the absence of any target for giving thanks, we shouldn’t feel anything? Thankfulness is a natural feeling, and we are thankful toward someone by nature. We can’t be thankful toward nothing. This is what I heard. Then silence. Then, I, at least, am thankful to God and everything he’s done for us.
It is only after his death that I discovered he believed himself to be God.
MY SISTER, BIRTH (REMOVED FOR 5 YEARS SINCE 20 YEARS): Recess. Holding hands. Destroy bully. Hug. Home. Nintendo. Laughter. White teeth. High school. Dyed hair. Breathmints. Hugs. Boyfriend. Girlfriend. Jealousy. Breakup. Home. Tears. Fuck off, Mom. Fuck off, Dad. Arm wrapped around. Shoulder caressed. Better. Thanks. Late nights. Parties. Boyfriend. Where’s _____? Late night. Bruises. Doctor. Egg. Tears. Arm wrapped around. Shoulder caressed. Fuck off. Belly. Showing. Home. Baseball bat. Stairs. Hospital. No egg. Shoulder care—. I said fuck off. Storm. Cutting. Blood. School. Fail. Bowling alley. Pot. Cigarettes. Home. Cigarettes. Boyfriends Men. Bruises. Cocktails. Home. Shower. Needles. Sidewalk. Found. Where’ve you been? Tears. Veins. Pale. Home. Overdose. Hospital. Egg. Home. Stairs. Hospital. Egg. Home. Baseball bat. Hospital. Breakout. Flee. Night. Street. “Doctor.” Coat hanger. Hospital. Family. Tears. No egg. Home. Polka dots. Stuffed animals. Needles. Needles. Needles. Needles. Needles. Needles. Needles. Needles. Needles. Needles. Needles. Needles. Fight. Me, broken arm. Mom, broken nose. Dad, broken heart. Flee. Chase. Come back. Come back. Dark. Night. Escape. Disappear.
MOM AND DAD: I will not dare speak of them after how it all began.