He’s drunk again, and here comes the speech.
“a pretty little snowflake,” he would laugh
“all that hippie bullshit your teachers told you,”
as if he could un-teach idealism
“everybody’s the same”
he was so fond of pointing out
life is something that was just given out
like slop at a soup kitchen
and so many work to find a bed in their bi-level
“delicate snow flakes, my ass” he belched after his third beer,
“you didn’t fight to be born,
if anything you fought to stay unborn, we
had to cut your mother open”…he would trail off
his favorite metaphor for my birth, my mother’s
only c-section, was popping the hood of their Chrysler
and pulling out the engine
my mother died during child birth
he would only say it while he was drunk
but it always made me cry
I was only becoming immune
as a teenager
I often wonder how a newborn reacts
ripped from the warmth and darkness
to lay eyes upon death, how indelible
is that first memory?
“Who needs college?”
said the man, the mechanic
after a while, he wouldn’t wash
his hands before cooking dinner,
always pasta, always with the slight
aftertaste of motor oil, of car death
“If it’s good enough to buy your clothes,”
he would mumble, “it’s good enough
to eat.” When he stopped finding solace
in beer, he replaced his dead wife with liquor.
By my sixteenth birthday, I was becoming
a good cook. I got a weekend job. I learned
the right way to water down whiskey and bourbon,
without effecting the taste.
None of my friends have ever been inside my house.
“I can’t believe I raised a fag,” was his new phrase,
uttered almost incoherently between swigs. When he noticed,
“You ain’t never brought a girl home.” Or anyone
for that matter, this house is a leper colony.
None of my scholarships came through, I would have
to commute to school, and work full-time.
I don’t know what I want to be, my only desire
is escape, the one gift never offered by the state.
By the time I chose my biology major,
I had almost decided the loans for private school,
were worth the release.
Then he came home with a hooker
The two of them stumbling arm and arm,
A holy union of cash and cum, he turned
to me and said, “If we play our cards right…you,”
at this point he tripped going up the stairs,
two worlds trailed off behind the slamming bedroom door,
“new,” and “mom.”
The new one at least had better taste than the old one.
She left with his wallet in the middle of the night.
He may have hit my “stupid, faggot ass,” once for
every one of the twelve dollars he had left.
By the time I graduated he was collecting unemployment.
I climbed up through medical school and during my
residency stayed at home again. I had been poor
a long time, but the first time I stole, it was charcoal
pills. So I wouldn’t have to get his stomach pumped
Without knowing it, my path veered toward the
maternity ward. Watching birth for two years,
watching women hold their new-borns, whitewashed
the walls of guilt, hidden in the dark space on the
back of my eyelids.
Six months after my first unsupervised birth,
he finally died. The doctors tried to explain
the cause, but I didn’t care which series of
organs finally stopped functioning first.
The relatives that had abandoned us for so long
finally came back for the wake, and they would
patronize me with their mock sincerity, telling
me, “You’ve been so strong.”
I didn’t cry.
I couldn’t tell them the only thing I was holding
back was rage. I was glad for the closed casket,
so I wouldn’t have a final chance,
to spit in his fucking face.
Then it happened, when his memory had faded
into an ambition to avoid his life, I lost my first
Mother, my first c-section – her last.
A month later I realized I had inherited more,
than my father’s name, and his debts.
By the time I had finished every drop that his
failed liver left in the house, my license to practice
After all these years, I finally realized I was climbing
the stairs of an Escher painting. Never rising or falling,
only moving in the shortest line from death to death.
Maybe I was dead the day I was born, and I was the only
one who was fooled into believing otherwise.