- The Sounds That Wake Me
[End Page 144]
I’ll tell you what, Papaw was a drunk, the sweetest man alive.Sober: A good husband; a loving father; he worked hard regardless,but I’ve never heard tell if he was able to keep a jobor if the family moved because of his drinking. On a binge, he beat Granny.He’d come home at 2am and beat her and she’d have to fry a chickenor fix something for him and his friends, her brothers, to eat. He beat herwith his belt. My mother says she can remember the snap. I wasn’t there,but I can hear it, too, the way it caught the back of Granny’s legs,the way she whimpered don’t. I can see the thin cotton layerof her nightgown that may as well not even been there.I hear the snap, too, almost every day.
It’s the same crack I heard when my brother and I torehis bedroom door off the hinges. He was nine and I was fourteenand he went to shut his door as I pushed against it. Hinges cracked loosefrom frame. I heard the clap of my father’s recliner as he jumped up,screaming, but I didn’t know what had really happeneduntil I felt the smack of the broomstick against my back. He got in threeor four swings before I escaped to my room. I don’t rememberhow many times he hit my brother, although surely he did,just as I’m sure my mother made him stop hitting us, but they were both madabout the damage we’d done. I can laugh about it:I was fourteen the last time I got a spanking . . . good god, I was too old,but I really wasn’t spanked that often. It’s true. I tell it and laugh [End Page 145]
the same way my father and his brother laugh about how Mamaw beat themfor good measure. My father was so mean, she put a dog collar on him,kept him chained to a tree in the yard so she could get her gardening done.They laugh about this and the way she’d beat my uncle, too,seven years older than my father, because he knew betterand didn’t stop my father from doing meanness.
If anything, he egged him on.Back home, abuse a joke, something akin to discipline and parenting.My father and his brother wore their beatings like medals pinned to chests.I don’t think they ever stopped once to consider what kind of men they’d becomeor the ways they passed this trauma down. They would laugh at calling ittrauma. They laughed at calling it abuse. Laughter like a leather beltsnapping skin. Their laughter cracks when they tell the story and everyoneelse has manners so good it keeps them from saying what’s on their minds: My lord.
Most often I wake up because I think I’ve heard him, the floor crackor the door creak, or, even worse, I wake because it’s too quiet in the house,too quiet in the house where I’m asleep in my dreams. I hear his laughat the way I jump when his hand snaps back, fist raised. I hear the snap,the belt, the wood splinter, the laugh track, chain snap against tree,and I lie awake waiting for the sting. [End Page 146]
SAVANNAH SIPPLE is a writer from east Kentucky. Her debut poetry collection WWJD and Other Poems (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2019) explores what it is to be a queer woman in Appalachia and is rooted in its culture and in her body. With a beer-drinking Jesus as her wing man, she navigates this difficult terrain of stereotype, conservative Evangelicalism, and, perhaps most, shame. Her writing has recently been published in Salon, Appalachian Heritage, Waxwing, and other places. She is also the recipient of grants from the Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Kentucky Foundation for Women.