Concerning your father
Sick, you said to me on the bus home.
He’s sick - you said as if it were your mantra.
He needs me, he’s getting better, he fares well when you are around.
He never seemed sick to me but your feelings resembled something like love for him and I couldn't do anything but let you.
I’d long ago put my knowledge of his sickness away in the back closet, before you told me of his sickness I’d felt the symptoms,
unintentionally mothballed with mildewed undies, along with clothes from that night, along with nausea from that night, along with anger,
along with the fine set of towels I had used to wash his fingerprints off my undeveloped body, fingernails sunken deep into my skin to scratch off the guilt of silence.
That night I let it rain on my body for many lifetimes of solitude.
That night I decided to keep a distance, one of the many ghosts that set us both apart,
at least two seats apart at the movies,
a polite no when you asked me to stay over.
After all, you seemed to love him
His little princess. His baby doll.
And who was I to ruin your love, cold leftovers from an already tepid childhood.
He’s a doctor, I thought. He must be making sure I’m not sick.
Had I not been afraid I would have known his sickness was you, his sickness was me, his sickness was our tenderness.
But his sickness was not yours to heal and you were not his to take.
And no matter how hard I tried to wash them off, his marks stained your skin, stained your corpse, like the stains on old tarnished silver.