Things My Father Said
1. My mother beat me the day she told me I was adopted.
2. The very first thing I saw when I got to Vietnam was a dead body, and a few feet down the road, its head.
3. A tiger took my platoon buddy into the jungle and ate him.
4. Life isn’t fair.
5. This is why I haven’t called you lately.
6. I started doing heroin in Vietnam.
7. Use the right tool for the job.
8. I don’t think you know how hard it is raising two kids.
9. You’re acting like a bitch.
10. I don’t have money for Christmas this year.
11. I sold your video camera.
12. If you take the dog to the pound, I’ll pay your car insurance this month.
13. A man dropped dead in the hardware store today.
14. I shot a man tonight.
15. I don’t want your money, you worked hard for that.
16. Maybe I should just slit my motherfucking throat.
17. Maybe I should just cut out my tongue.
18. I am not Jesus Christ.
19. How is your mother?
20. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and think, God Almighty, give me the strength to do the right thing.
21. There is no justice in the world.
22. I’m sick of the cold.
23. I joined a methadone clinic.
24. I can’t do this without you.
When I Pray to My Dead Dogs
When I pray to my dead dogs
what I want to know is
do they know I loved them?
That I’m sorry for losing my temper
when they pulled the leash
and barked at the neighbors
and nearly got me evicted.
Do they know I saw the purity
of their love
and tried to mimic it with hearty
beef treats and toys shaped like
the things of mine they stole
but I came up short,
by those deep shining brown eyes
regarding me from their spot
on the carpet saying,
Don says, the way I see it,
I’m grateful to have someone that makes me feel this way.
We finger-punch text messages from our respective work days. His
is in Chicago in a building that used to manufacture coffins, mine
is on the east coast surrounded by upholstered cubicle walls
that look like carpet.
The way I see it, I say, this is all just temporary and one day
you’ll live here,
and Don says, I want that.
I try to tell him about the vacuum in my chest, how missing him
is a hole full of movement,
how I can feel it churning like a whirlpool and all I can think of
are twisters and black holes and how my heart feels like it’s
He says he’s grateful for the emptiness,
exalted to have someone to make him feel this kind of sadness.
We are so lucky, we say, to be able to feel so much nothing
and everything at the same time.
I tell him about the magnetic poles of my heart,
how falling in love with him is like drifting in space
without a spacesuit,
my insides filling with wonder at the vastness of the universe around me
even as my body drains itself of oxygen
One day all our pieces will come together, I say,
and we gaze upon our future like a meteor threatening Earth’s sky,
too far off to make out the impact,