I gave them my childhood because I had to;
half my adulthood, their echoes in my head.
He’d pound blind fury if her expression changed,
pummel if her tone faltered. When she divorced him
she partied like a prisoner, freed. Sometimes
she’d pass out on the couch after dinner, TV blaring,
and I’d circle back every hour to make sure
she was still breathing. Even at eight
I was on patrol. At eleven, court-ordered visiting
at dad’s, my sister & I tried to eat dinner—
but that familiar crying out, a sound so visceral,
so Pavlovian, I can’t hear it without intervening.
I put down my fork & headed to the kitchen,
all five feet of me, jacked up on so much rage.
As I rounded the corner, I saw him holding
his third wife by the collar of her housedress,
slapping her face back & forth, back & forth.
I ran at him like a linebacker, his eyes widening
as I got closer. Elf to giant, child to ogre, I pushed
him off her, and pushed, and pushed, until,
with my final shove, he fell against the wall
and actually slid down, like in the movies. I stared
at him— all splayed out, bully on his back—
and me there, shaking, with my newfound power.