On the Way to Chevron, My Father Tries to Save My Life
He turns to me while I’m driving,
says, There’s something I should tell you.
Says, Truth is, I’ve worried it could happen to you.
Says, Women have been burned clear to death.
Says, I know it’s weird, but I wanted you to know.
Then he pauses, embarrassed.
In his pause is room enough for me
to think, holy shit and self-immolation.
To wonder if he senses, after all,
how I verge on combustion.
The smolder I fight to keep
from flaring up and engulfing me daily,
in the laundry room and kitchen,
narrow confinement of the bathroom.
My washer and dryer spinning years of
not done, not done, not done.
Dinners no one likes bubble over
on the stove, and the toilet is bolted
so close to the wall, the only way
to get it clean is on my knees.
Some days, I rest there like a sick person—
head lolling, hair in my face—
and listen while my children trash the house,
glad the mirror cannot find me:
a controlled burn of a woman
where a raging goddamned wildfire might have been.
I stop the car, and he starts again, my father.
Says, You’ve got to stay outside while you pump your gas.
Says, You sit back down, you’re building up static.
Says, Spark’ll jump right down the gas tank and light you up.
Says, Touch something before the nozzle. Discharge your spark.
Promise me, he says, you’ll do it every time.
Later, walking room to room to watch my family sleep,
I stand at each bedside in the dark,
not knowing where it’s safe to put my hands.
In honor of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, this selection comes from the poetry collection, Bright Stain, available from Red Hen Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Nilsa Rivera.