THINGS I COULD NEVER TELL MY DAUGHTER
In honor of Denise Duhamel,
Qui Bene Cantat, Bis Orat
I didn’t want you at first—
When you were a baby I put my middle finger in your soft spot and
pressed down, testing your skull like an overripe peach cupped in my hands;
I dropped you in the shower once because you were soapy and slid down
my thigh—you smacked the porcelain with a quick thwup
before shrieking in pain.
When you were two, waking from a nightmare,
I rushed to your bedside and you pushed me away—
screaming Daddy! Daddy! and I don’t want you! and
though I deserved it, I never felt more alone.
At four I jerked you by the shoulder, locked you in
your room. I thought about moving to France. I
thought about leaving you a peanut butter sandwich and
a glass of milk before toweling your door. I thought about
turning on the gas stove, leaning in—instead
when you stopped crying, I snuck into your room to
watch you breathe. Just to be sure. Sometimes I still creep in,
inhaling the smell of your washed hair or nuzzling your neck
even though I never wanted children, and neither did your father
(I know he is your favorite)—even though
I broke open for you.
I fear all your bad traits come from me.
At times I blame you for all of this and
I know one day you’ll tell them how I ruined your life.
I promise I won’t get angry when I glimpse a line in your teenage
diary painting me in horrid colors, a terrible woman; a tyrant who
twisted your arm too hard at the park when you went missing for five whole
minutes, while I yelled and yelled your name.
—from Rattle #35, Summer 2011