I am the middle sister pretending our father is not a drunk.
This is the oldest half-blood sister not smiling on his lap.
Here is the little one, born too soon, too young to know any better.
And over there is our mother averting her eyes in the kitchen.
Frances drove off a bridge the night I was conceived. Let us name no names for the rest of these girls. For the rest of these bodies. They are our grandmothers / our mothers / our aunts / our sisters / ourselves. We don’t breathe, we slit our wrists, somebody stops eating. We use guns & overdose on pills sold out of backpacks. Somebody lies her body down on a beach & waits for the tide. Car accidents take two of us / alcohol takes one–slowly. Many of us are ripped apart daily. In daylight. With the television on. With the piano playing. With the sound of pots banging in the kitchen.
She takes us to a lot of different churches / we believe bits from each. We have no truth / cling to myth. We like science fiction because in it we see the righting of wrongs. She talks about the universe / about stars & signs & gods. We are only young so do not question her infinite wisdom of such things.
Of course the car will not run out of gas if we cross our fingers & promise to be good girls. When it sputters going up a hill she wants to know who is failing to think good thoughts / who has not crossed her fingers? Always it is our little sister who is guilty / our little sister refusing to believe.
If the car runs out of gas despite our efforts it is for the best & we should thank the Gods for their divine intervention. You never know. There could have been a whole family of bunnies on the road up ahead / or worse / you just never know.
This memory is a photo: our mother in black & white. She is ironing in a kitchen / the ironing board is covered in a loud floral pad / the cupboards are wallpapered pattern matching her mini-dress / she wears cat-eyeglasses and her hair is long & dark, parted / down the middle & tucked behind her ears.
This photo is a memory : in black & white our mother is very proud / VERY forgivable forgivable forgivable forgivable forgivable forgivable forgivable / she has camouflaged the roaches / in our new apartment with wallpaper.
but didn’t we always know that these are the words
__sewing wings onto bloodsuckers and
this is the story we sing on holidays__when sun-
_______light reflects off a jellybean__filled wine bottle
_____________we count his sobriety chips
2_____4_____6_____8_____who do you appreciate?
we are waiting for the glass to shatter_____all over the floor
together we will dance_____on the sweet madness
A lamp is thrown across the room from the hand of our drunk father.
Our mother screams and ducks. It misses her
shatters against the wall.
We three girls take cover.
We are hiding behind the sofa.
I pick the skin from my belly button
__________while my older sister__whispers hush hush hush
& the little one laughs–too young to understand.
After our father is sent away–to the Sexual Offenders Rehabilitation Program and the Alcoholism Recovery Center but not to jail, no he does not go to jail–we are left with only ourselves and it is lovely. It is lovely in the kitchen it is lovely
in the morning when our mother is getting ready for work. The sun is there and so is the sound of quiet. Nobody yelling. Just girls getting ready, eating breakfast, maybe we argue with each other and it is such a beautiful sound.
Our mother is at the table with the sunshine. She brushes her dark hair and pulls back the front in two silver clips Maroon lipstick and brown mascara, pink powder on high cheek bones Smelling of sweet talc, cigarettes, and Extra sugar free chewing gum Sits in her slip and panty hose, eating cereal, drinking milky hot sugared tea. Today she will wear a wrap around dress, the black one with tiny white roses on it.
She places her bowl and cup into the sink and winces as she forces her large bony feet into work shoes–black heels. On the way to drop us at school she cracks the window, holds her cigarette outside. When she exhales she blows the smoke up over our heads, aiming for the crack.
In the brown station wagon she yells, “Are you ready girls? Hold on tight, here we go!” Our stomachs soar when she speeds for the hill and takes it going fifty so the tires leave the pavement and for a brief moment, we are weightless.