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My mother always ends a phone conversation with ‘I love you.’

And she says that it is because you never know
When someone will be taken from you,
and I think that is true.

But her “I love you’s” have different levels;
One said in exasperation to my brothers
when they’re being particularly much

One said quietly to my sisters
as they drift slowly into their dreamscapes
and as she’s closing their door

One said matter-of-factly to me
when I am having a conversation with her.

It always takes me by surprise, and I know that it shouldn’t, but it does because the last level of her “I love you” is reserved for my father.

It is said, almost as an afterthought at the end of their phone conversations, said with frustration and almost resigned to her lot in life.

“— love you.”

The spot for the “I” is a glaring void of things left unsaid

It has given me a new greatest fear that I will grow so complacent in my relationship, in my life, that I too will end phone conversations with “—love you.”
The “I” in “I love you” is important
Be all my sins remembered,
Like all of our sins before.

The sins of my flawed father,
That I, the eldest daughter bore

Be all my sins remembered
Rather than all of my good deeds

My sins are signs of my humanity
They’re signs of my shameless needs

Be all my sins remembered
Let her name forever be twined with mine

I have tasted heaven on earth
I am hers to the end of the line
It's been awhile
When he comes home, I go into panic mode,
The walls in my brain closing in,
The bile in my throat rising,
My teeth sweating in anticipation of what is to come

When he comes home,
I hope to god that I pass beneath the radar,
Nothing more than a sigh on the breeze,
Nothing more than a ripple in a pond
Nothing for him to notice

When he comes home, I make myself as small as I can,
Hoping that he’ll ignore me like he has all these years,
But knowing that it’s a futile attempt,
Like trying to avoid the burning sun

When he comes home,
The nausea roils in my gut,
Reminding me that I am nothing,
That I will never be anything more than what he paints me to be

When he comes home,
I am reduced to “yes sir” and “no sir,”
To eyes that are glued to the ceiling or floors,
To fidgeting hands and twisting fingers
To nothing more than a decoration to stand in the corner

When he comes home,
I try to retreat to my room,
I try to give him the space that he seems to need,
I try to leave him be and let him sleep,
But nothing seems to work, and he yells all the same

When he comes home,
My home becomes nothing more than a battlefield,
One that I cannot escape,
One that there is no running from,
One from which the injuries are only seen in the trauma that is left behind

When he comes home,
My life becomes nothing more than a play,
A tragedy in which no one survives,
A performance that I am supposed to know,
But stage fright has taken over and the lines mean nothing to me now
And I am frozen, hoping for the curtains to fall to cover my fear

When he comes home,
I quietly
Stage left.
Trauma responses ****
In all of my twenty years of life,
I have been many things.

A daughter
A sister
A friend
A lover

But now, I am no longer my father’s little girl.

My father doesn’t talk to me anymore;
He says that I don’t look him in the eyes,
And he is right, but not for the reason he believes

I am afraid to look him in the eyes
Because I don’t want to see myself reflected in them,
Proof of my failure to separate myself from him,
Proof that I am him and always will be him

I do not want to become my father,
Stuck in a marriage with no love left
Or love that is there
Only because it is supposed to be

I do not want to become my father,
Constantly on the verge of tiredness,
And whether that tiredness is directed at
His family or his life, I shall never know

Because I do not want to become my father
All sharp words and angry edges,
Keeping everyone around him on their toes,
Keeping my head on a swivel to not upset him

I do not want to be my father.
I do not want to make my children feel
as though they will never measure up to
Impossible standards, set way too high

I do not want to be my father,
Telling my daughter that she’s eating too much
And not looking at me enough,
Guilt-tripping her into half-hearted apologies,
Said with tears trembling in her eyes

I do not want to be my father.
I do not want my children to be frightened of me,
Dreading the thought of my arrival home
Waiting in fear of my reaction to something they’ve done

I do not want to be my father.
My home will be a gentle home,
Peaceful and quiet,
With no rage-filled shouting matches

I do not want to be my father,
Wondering where he went wrong with his daughter,
That she would stand in front of him, angry tears on her cheeks,
Screaming at him that she wishes that she were dead

I do not want to be my father.
Struggling to catch up with the times,
Grudgingly supportive of the daughter that is different,
The daughter that loves men and women,
But only because he has to be

I do not want to be my father
But I wish that sometimes,
I could be his little girl again,
Back when everything was ok
And it still felt like he loved me

I do not want to be my father,
But sometimes,
It feels as though
I will never be anything more
We love daddy issues
She is my comfort in my storm,
The breath in my lungs
The soul in every poem that I write

When her hands are on my body
And her lips are on my neck
Her name is the prayer on my tongue
I never believed in religion until she had me on my knees for her
Our love looks like reverence
As I raise my hands in surrender,
Waiting for the holy fire to wash me clean

Our love looks like reverence
And your name falls from my lips,
A desperate plea for your touch

Our love looks like reverence
And I am on my knees in front of you
Worshipping your body as it deserves to be
I am only on my knees for her
She touches my skin, and I am set ablaze
I rise to meet her touch as birds rise into the sky,
and all I can think of is her

She speaks my name and it’s like a prayer on her lips,
a religion that only she and I are a part of
She speaks my name and I become weak
For Her.
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