The kitchen was dark, stillness exacerbated
by the poor light coming through a window:
day but late, house clean and inert
as a hand under shadowed bath water,
palm open, empty. I’d wake eventually,

a little version of Mom to scale, scaled
right down to the lizard brain. Surviving this:
a laughing father friendly enough to unpack
a mack truck and make a friend, laughing
father needed enough to be reigned in

from long-haul fucking to short-haul
home-late. The crabs came from a toilet
seat and coincidentally he moved a mattress
that day, no pun intended. A laughing father
timing grocery store runs shouting

the closed windows to a rattle signaling bedroom
lights off: black boys he’d say and checkbook,
or disrespect if someone spoke of his saintly
mother, ghost-thighed, who oversaw their marriage
in a church basement where broken artifacts reign

holy in sight of no one. How to love
oneself in one’s self-deprecation. And Sister
in the back yard on the swing with a boy. Sister
pillow-thighed. Sister in the vice principal’s
desk scouting liquor. Sister missing

and me in the back seat, knees to chest,
praying for her invisibility or mine. Sister
thrown against the wall, lollipop clutched
in one hand, the dimes not spent at the payphone
in the other, ready to laugh about this later.

Sister to a movie camera, sister to a security
camera. Sister to a space telescope. Sister
resented, Sister I hated. Sister illustrated
on a leaf of my brain like a book I’ve closed. First book
I wrote. First book I’d save from a burning house.