i. Busted

nothing is busted
it is broken
it’s not a tit
it’s a teat
don’t say snot —
it’s mucus
(though one of us, possibly me,
the eldest, misheard
and we called it
the rules of polite speech
according to my mother
could not account for why
          I could never look my father in the eye
could not fix
what was broken



ii. Sucker

You were ten the night there was nowhere to stay
at the British seaside town,
when the whole family slept by the beach
in the Saab station wagon.
He mocked you, mimicked the sound
of the suck suck suck.
You weaned yourself at thirteen, ashamed
of your need for this infant comfort.
It happened just once after that. At sixteen,
after a fight with him, you hurtled into your room
in rare tears, fingers in your mouth.
The evidence is there: an overbite,
the fingers slightly shrunken, angled.
Compared to their counterparts
they look like ghosts.
Through it all, and beyond, you swallowed
the family line —
that the fault was yours.



iii. Sunday lunch
entering her parents’ house
is like landing on a foreign planet in original Trek
no lizard-headed alien will spring from behind a rock
but the atmosphere is hostile
to reality, she can’t
bring her whole self here
it would be like bringing a baby into a beer hall
all need and feeling in a place
where need and feeling are
distractions from the good time to be had
impediments to the easy flow of jokes
and facts
and comedy quotes
and relentlessly animated conversation
by Tuesday
she’s bingeing and purging again
crying into her coffee, telling her friend
she doesn’t know what’s wrong
her friend says, have you seen your mother lately?
as her wife will say in years to come
noting her fixed, argumentative stance
hon, did you talk to your family? 


iv. Rupture

in the house where everything is fine
if you are not fine
if you cannot pretend to be fine
if you do not agree that
everything is fine
if you do not think that a house
where everyone must be fine
all the time
is fine
you can leave that house
or leave yourself

choose your rupture