In trying so hard
to make you see me, only
walking away worked.
Secrets in a box….
Photos of smiling strangers,
letters from the hospital where Grandmother was kept locked, and Christmas pictures
of us all, with you closing your eyes to it all.
I could see the secrets in you,
The secrets, the secrets, the secrets
multiplied like cells, grew like dark rabid dogs traveling in a pack
You fed the secrets and kept them from me, and made them strong.
My one visit with Grandma wasn’t at a nice, warm, home with a fireplace and cookies baking;
It was sitting with you in a hospital with locked doors, and when they brought her in, and then went out,
they locked the door again behind us.
She didn’t know us, and had pictures of someone else’s grandchildren.
You took them away, and slapped down pictures of Steve and me.
The secrets howled in my ears that day, but I was too young to know how to kill them.
Same trip, same memory…
My half-sister was in another hospital, and not allowed to leave. We visited, she whispered,
and we went home.
You let that one out when someone else asked you -
That secret went off wild, shrieking into the night.
We went home, across the country, and no one ever spoke of it again.
And the secrets were growling, and the secrets were fed.
I listened to the silence, and I saw the questions,
raw, hanging in the air.
And the secrets gobbled the questions.
Later, Dad with his everyday beer – and we all had the key to that secret
and no one took it off the chain.
The secrets, the secrets, the secrets
built up, bulked up, muscled, and stomped around, daring us to tell them
and kill them.
I was a problem to be corrected, by diet, exercise, church.
I starved myself at 14, a prisoner of my own secrets.
And church, where I was offered up for your guilt
and went to Mass afterward, where I bathed in your guilt as if it were my own.
The secrets, the secrets, the secrets,
sat at my feet while I said the words and crossed myself, and licked at my wrists when I splashed on the holy water.
Mother, I remember.
I remember you singing in the dark,
and screaming down the hall.
Your secrets died with you -
and I am now the host
to the ghosts.
Walking through another hot, noisy party, together
through the furious dancers, through the heat and noise and music,
(wait, I see it)… there’s a look, and a turn,
and again, another wet whisper in your ear
and this time we drop
and this time we shatter.
The high music pierces the room, and smoke strangles the air,
and the maniacal dancers menace
and the shards of us are trampled
by the careless
and the vicious.
Here’s what; take a look at yours
and know that you have filled it up,
that you have punched it for all it’s worth
and used it up with me.
There is no remittance, no exchanges, no returns, and no more promotions;
We will go on, until we don’t, but know
I’m not accepting any more pain from you.
Summer ends, and it all ends.
Like a fire that turns to ash, with sparks that die as they fly
The end of the warmth, the end of the light, the end of the stars, and the beginning of night.
Dark is never so much as when the party’s over, and we all go home alone.
She bled out years ago,
and yet, still walks around.
You ask her, and she answers, and the words are full of air.
There is no way to see through her, and yet
in one moment disguised as any other moment, she blinks
and you see her
before she knits herself together again.
And she walks around dressed in holes
and she walks around and plays with ghosts,
and she walks around, and her seams show,
And that’s the way this life of hers goes.
I got the call at Mom’s at quarter after seven that night; it was the hospital:
“Your father has passed away.”
I’m not sure what is worse, being told
or having to tell.
Cancer had been eating my father
for months, and now it was done.
He was not supposed to die so soon – there was so much more to do.
My mother walked around for months like half of her body had been ripped from her,
and I went numb, like the body will from too much pain.
Tonight, I walked my dog, and thought about the man
who taught me how to spell before any teacher had a chance, how to color (“You want to stay in between the lines; look at my arm, the color is all there”)
how to shoot baskets, and how to play blackjack before I got out of grade school.
This was a dad who built a well in the front yard (no water, but it was pretty), and a tree house in the back yard.
This was a dad who would sit with me at the kitchen table, and go over the names of all of the sports teams in each state, so that I knew there were New York Mets, Jets, and Nets, just for starters;
This was also a dad who would take me to the movies on Saturdays, who showed me the best way to wash dishes (I’m still working on that one, Dad), and who I learned so much about, after it was too late to talk to him about it all.
Since I can’t ask you about it all, Dad, there’s just this to say to you -
You were all right, Dad – you did all right by me.
To enter a realm of possibility
Where love could be more than parts from a catalog, still
A mystery, still a delicious bite of magic
And the universe expanded a little bit
Every time the bell was rung.
How nice it would be
instead of just another person to hide from,
could be the one I hide with.