Routine

 

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.

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