• Clarissa Laws


Updated: Jul 27, 2020

Stay. Go. Stay. Go.

Door slamming "Leave it to your father..."s

Turn to leaving like my father

Him running like blood, being pushed from a heart

I'm chasing him through shadows

I knew you.

Driving fast, living faster, harder

Writing your own prescriptions

Meeting your addiction with every excuse, a turn of the cheek

Deny, deny, deny

I knew you.

Taking me for rides with the windows down, Ryan Adams blasting on brassy speakers

Striding alongside me in Converse sneakers the first time I went for a run

Both gasping, so exhausted

We called mom to pick us up before we reached one mile

Accompanying me on long bike rides the summer my bones were hurt

Showing me your secret places

Pedaling me through your dreams, your magnificent plans for the house down the street

Dreams that faded, bottle by bottle

Dreams drowned like a stone in your imaginary swimming pool

Me, us, sitting around a sad birthday cake

Candles blown out, letting the wax pool on white frosting

Taking turns, taking risks

Taking me shopping for jewelry, for my mother

Except it wasn't for my mother

Taking me to the post office, shipping a package to your grandmother

Except it wasn't to your grandmother

I stare blankly at the greeting cards, pretending I don't see

We are mailing the antique bracelet

It was not for my mother, not for your grandmother

Taking me for granted, taking your time, taking it in stride

Letting you in, one more time, this time is different

And you always taking

I took you at your word

I knew you.

Long letters in messy scrawl on curling yellow paper

16th birthday, 18th birthday, I waited years to hear from the man in the next room

Screaming, shouting, sobbing, buried in my twin sized bed, heavy hurt muffled by soft down filling

Your words in black ink

I read, you write: I'm beautiful. I'm brilliant, strong. My heart falls in love in ways that most people's can't

Flip of a coin, the other side of the mirror, my capacity to hurt

Your fist smudging the letters, I make out that I am more like you than my seven brothers combined

You say the things that I have longed to hear from you

Yet are somehow strange to receive from the hand of the stranger in the next room

You knew me.

You left me with a narrative difficult to share

The anguish of being abandoned by the man living in that house, the man who is my father

Begging for understanding, pleading for validation, grasping at straws

Sometimes I wished you were dead

Universal, comprehensive, succinct: Death

A simple explanation for a hurt that spreads beneath the skin, parasitic

But I know I would be the one crying hardest at your wake



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