“This Is Not Loving” by Gail J. Peck

Gail J. Peck


My sister told me she took Dad’s face
in her hands and said,
There’s nothing, just nothing in your eyes.
That if he wanted to get help, she’d go with him.
I’m not letting the kids ride with him anymore, she said.
My nephew came home from the Country Kitchen
with a gash in his forehead because Dad
slammed on his brakes and got
in another argument on the highway.
We discovered he even shot at a man once.
Growing up, we’d been held hostage—
rounding the corners on two wheels
while Mother pleaded, Slow down.

But my kids don’t have to take it, my sister says.
She’s persuaded Mother to stop riding with him also—
Mother, who finally walked out years ago,
but who rode with him to dinner each Sunday,
reminding us He’s so alone, he’s got his good side.
That’s true—remembering every birthday,
sharing the bounty of his garden.
And even if I did think it was crazy to spend
all his savings to buy that new car, it was his money.
It helps some that he’s only my stepfather,
this sadness, this not loving him.

from Rattle #16, Winter 2001
Tribute to Boomer Girls


Gail J. Peck: “What interests me in writing poems is how people interact with one another. How do we get to the truth, and what is the underside of that truth? Can we use the shaping of language to move beyond the self-deception that seems so often to protect us from our own vulnerability?”

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