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  • Jagged with Love
  • Susanna Childress

The year my father stopped yelling, I began       to see a counselor. I cried to her, all the buds             of forgiveness stubborn as flax, the color       of a forgotten wall, having burrowed for years, and now with the coaxing       of this woman, psalmist's verse, dry-erase board,             I wept stupidly, like a girl       who's torn the head from her doll, meaning to. My nightmares recurred. I stopped sleeping,       stopped eating meals, only the forkfuls I could muster             while my roommates gawked. I stayed days in my room       and found music that cried with me, for pity's sake, the blue stomachache of life, life shorn up as a skull.       My counselor kept mentioning             the mortal coil, and here I was, she said, somewhere       between Eeyore and catatonia. How's your sex drive, she'd ask, and, The centipede in your dreams still speaks? One day a sign outside her office building says, Watch       for falling tar. We start in on the fainting spells, the one             and only slap, the first time he called me a whore. Men       on the roof keep throwing over bags of powder, their tools, their helmets flag past the window and hit the ground       like a knee-jerk memory: his breath             blowing out Shit for Brains. His soldier's stance,       close enough to my face for a kiss, or a small, calculated bite. Last night, I start, I finally dreamed of Vietnam.       Good, she says, and marks it down, Good. No, I say, it was me,             giving birth in the jungle. My father was nowhere, not with a gun, not hunting Charlie. My father, I say, was not even dead. [End Page 50] And then, as sometimes happens, my hour is up, and I am       standing outside. It smells burnt. I look up, watching for tar             to fall, but even that, I don't know what it means: how       do you watch for something to fall? Just walk, I guess, and this is what I do, chin tipped to the sky, thrumming with the urge       to love complexity as I know it, jagged with love.



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pp. 50-51
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