Splinters sat stream-lined
under the skin of my hands
from all the work
I helped my father do.
Afterwards we’d sit
sipping lemonade and beer
in our seats on the porch,
soaking swelling in jars of vinegar
as the Sunday afternoon said goodbye.
At night the rice boiled over,
cooked dry while the steak
stayed seared on one side.
He’d have my mother
up against the kitchen counter,
his eyes volcanic
with simmering rage and shame.
In my room on the calculator
sweat sailed from my brow
as I struggled to stay in touch
with the other students at school.
The sound of a slap
outside my door from somewhere
else in the house
was enough to make my jaw lock shut.
The corner of her lip cracked red,
my knuckles white gripping my cutlery,
his glazed eyes.
Around the kitchen table
where my brother used to sit.
And none of us was able
to quite understand where he went.
So there was nothing else to do
but wait until the next day
when the sun was there again
and my dogs wagging tail would tell me
if anything, he at least was okay.