Today, the rain pours so hard the graveyard floods, the ground gives way, and bleached bones and skulls make themselves known—bones from the years the town was too poor to buy coffins, the years we used to shoot our dead to make sure they were dead. They’re buried behind the church where you and I got caught messing around after hours—the church we’re barred from now. And the township won’t speak to us, all these parishioners who still hang confederate flags from their houses to watch them wave in the wind. And, today, my father comes home early from the fields, catches us on the couch with our hands clasped, lips bruised as sunsets. This father who maybe knows me best by the catch of my breath, the Daddy, no! the Please!, the cries. And in the truth no one will admit, he knows me best as the daughter who made him this way—the reason my mother forgot how to accept his early-morning kiss without flinching. Knows me as the girl who left his youngest daughter unattended in the lake’s deep, the reason she’s dead, the reason he’s spent so many days at the bar and so many nights with closed fists, the reason he’s forsaken church for years, laughs at the mention of God, spends Sundays in front of the TV without really looking at it. I know him as clenched fists, as I’m the one who brought you into this world, and I’m the one who can take you out, as I-promise-to-do-better-by-you but never doing better for long, hands shaking like an earthquake. This father who used to sing me to sleep. The one who once dived into the local pool to keep me from drowning, back when things were better, before the days our dumpster overflowed with bottles. And, now, he’s the one who stares at our hands with some semblance of a smile, no grimace, no rictus, one side of his sun-chapped lips quirking up: the one person who doesn’t seem to want to seal us up in coffins, the one who wanders into the kitchen and starts on dinner, wondering whether you’re going to stay.
© Despy Boutris
[This piece was selected by Rachel Wild. Read Despy’s interview]