In the passenger seat of your car, I ask you what
color the burnt orange of the leather seats are and you tell me
burnt orange. My cheeks in the rearview mirror are the color
of burning, and when I look down at my hands, they’re so pale
that I forget for a moment that I own flesh over these bones.
The fog is so thick that I could lose you in it again, you say —
and I put my hand on your hand until I mix our fingers up.
There is a shipwreck between your ribs and it took eighteen years
for me to understand how to understand your kind of drowning.
The divorce papers say Christmas and July. That’s all you were given
to touch the cheeks of your small daughters and try to tell them in
smaller and smaller words how absence does not mean
The first and last time I saw my parents together was in a
parking lot at McDonalds. They didn’t speak to each other, didn’t
look each other in the eye — only handed me between them
like an insult.
When I got into my father’s car, he handed me a Happy Meal toy
like an apology.
There are people who cannot be held quietly. There are screams
that are never externalized. If I looked at the photo albums of your
past twenty years, all I would find are decibel meter graphs of
phone calls and the intensity of your silence as you sat
smoking cigarettes in the garage.
Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder, scientists
have finally proven.
All it does is make you that much more aware of how many
feet it takes to walk a mile.
There is a shipwreck between your ribs. You are a box with
fragile written on it, and so many people have not handled you
And for the first time, I understand that I will never know
how to apologize for being
one of them.