Cosmonauts Avenue
PORTRAIT OF A DAUGHTER

i.
you say you hate my mouth.
the way it curls sour, stands on edge.

ii.
I could count the number of times
you drove me to elementary school

on my hands. I’d reply to your
conversation, come to find out I was

competing against your bluetooth. it hurt
and so it became a game. who did you

speak to with such urgency? how many
people commanded much more respect

than I ever could?

iii.
you wanted active, outdoorsy children.
not a gay, sensitive daughter or

a suicidal son. you wanted many things,
but refused to admire your own

handiwork. we don’t know how to skin
a rabbit, or plead the bones from

a fish. we know secrets and screaming.
we know how high a fall can kill you

and how to coax a child from a
washing machine. a man out of a stone.

a thing from a much angrier thing.

iv.
when you were fourteen you stumbled
and tumbled end over end down

a mountainside, your face so badly
scraped the neighborhood kids

called you mala cara. you step sideways
and cautious going downhill now.

you stomp blind and marching over
your wife and children.

v.
the first time you punched me
in the face, I couldn’t fold your towel

fast enough. deliberate stupidity,
you called it. one of many things

you couldn’t stand. I flew
howling into the kitchen and

my mother just looked up from
her butcher’s knife and said nothing,

exasperated. she wouldn’t look at
my face.

vi.
you drove me a handful more times
to high school, yelling over my music.

conchatumadre. cerda. mierda.
my teeth chattered with fury, hands

shaking in my skirts. you somehow
were both the brick wall and

the bulldozer. you lean in closer to
cow me into a corner and I long

to bite your head off your neck.

vii.
you stand over me like a god, and
I remain unimpressed. your fists

love the insides of my cheekbones,
you remind me very well. I lie defiant

on the living room floor. you ground
me into the tile. the grooves of my flesh

are just shoeprints. you leave and I sob
a frenzy. my nerve endings waiting for hail

hours after the forecast proclaimed
sunshine. I drown my body in poison.

I know now with certainty that
a good person cannot come from rot.

you taught me that.

viii.
you say you hate my mouth.
you’d quite like to rip it off my face.

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