my father’s a drink first, fist first kind of guy
he’s consistent that way
he barely talks
when he does i shrink away
his anger is a low burning coal mine
his dense geological pressure
terrorizing people he brands
with the fear of his love

i convince myself
maybe he’s through this time
but his rage is never full

each morning he sees me again
the weak boy
effete, artistic, tearful
the easy target that won’t fight back

...........(sorry, this is not the beginning. roll backwards. reset.)

i grew up a weed
in a stone garden
hiding in a dry crack
our pesticide-flavoured family
invisible behind spiny leafless vines, never-painted scrap board fences

............(why is this interesting? why should you be concerned? i’m not sure i am.)

i don’t know how many times
the police put my father
in tight vine chokeholds
his wrists in thorny metal
father breathing fire, smiling without worry
gone into the red and blue night

away for a day, a few days
he comes back
shrinking like an apologetic puppet
apoplectic about his repetitious sins
lying so humbly
mom cries out forgiveness
because she has no choice
they drink like lovers
thrash like legless cows

............(i need to apologize. i should not be writing about these events. secrets should be kept.)

15 now
i wear my father’s brand — his mark
visible and invisible
my medical records are a diary of ignored truths
bruises stitches x-rays
dislocated shoulders broken ribs
all ad-hockey injuries
we say if someone asks
no one bothers

.............(this secret i should never tell. it’s always dangerous. i shouldn’t trust you)

my father has a massive stroke
predictable for a man of vices,
but not soon enough
not massive enough
one breath lost — chance of survival
two lost breaths — brain dead
three lost breathes — simply dead
i expect not to see him again

..............(i have better sense than this. i cannot hope for these things)

it’s my sad-eyed disappointment
he lingers like a cold hallway shadow
he’s a bag of bones
a major intersection of iv drips
tubes, machinery, and needles
incoming nurses and doctors
outgoing family traffic cops

i wonder why i’m here
am i waiting for acknowledgement
that he is responsible
for these scars only we know about

i wonder what it would be like
to garrotte him like watery cheese or
choke him with my fingers
i get lost in these hypnotic thoughts
and others like them too often

.............(this isn’t what I think now. it’s not right. i take the words back, swallow my guilt. i’m used to that kind of thing.)

at the hospital
i hear the corridor voices
talk about what best to do
my dad won’t improve
a voice says he deserves dignity
no matter his life

i spit and gag on bile
i see myself in virtual reality
pulling his life out of an electrical outlet
the death knell beeeeeeeepppp, the flat line

it’s time to go home let’s be fuckin’ pragmatic

...............(i don’t regret this yet. i know what you’re thinking. inevitably i will live with guilt . . .)

i hear someone cry
like a pigeon
i can’t understand why
the doctor assures us
he felt no pain

i’m ready to murder
to hear it was excruciating
i’m a suicidal zealot
for searing pain
i’m a serial killer for
his death and resuscitation each day
until we forget how to count days

..............(i’ve said so many things i could never say to his face. i’m a coward, like he always said)

i know he taught me
disdain for mortality
gave me a lifetime of guilt

after his departure
i learned the relief of being able to walk away
from a twisted bond
a father and son
the carcinogenic actions
the cruelly inevitable consequences
from a crying start
to a flat-lined end

.................(sorry you read this. it’s all wrong. roll the words back. restart. don’t press repeat)