no childhood seesaw This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

March 9, 2011
give and take
a constant battle of want and need
our combat scarred faces
studied with wounds that would’t bleed
you pull, extract, absorb my devoted energies
and i never fail to keep giving
all of my organs, my thoughts
woven into a tattered cot
for which you to sleep on
and dream
of the most effective ways to leave

(the husband)
i work all hours of the night
back home at dawn
i continue this fight
to put a roof over our heads,
your head
and it’s never enough
so you will go,
i will be mad,
this slice of life just cut
from a wedding cake charred at the start
you baked a nail file into
to saw your way out

(the father)
twenty hours a week
I break the law to see you
in all of your shiny, new glory
a bundle of flesh and fleece
snuggled in a sea of stuffed animals
there’s always a present for you in the morning
your mom says with such disdain
i really do bring you
bears and toy trucks
but she insists that i always leave a trace of
fields of poppies rushing through my veins
don’t take it out on me, son
she’s wrong, son
i would do anything for you, son
except, i can’t
clean up, son.

(the patient)
she gave me the best years of my life
so why is it that i’m in
a center for the underdeveloped
when i’m wheeled to the visitors’ lobby
she stares with such calamity
at my legs, victims of atrophy
and there’s nothing i can say
to ease her tears
as she sobs,
“this is the woman i’ve spent
so many years
worrying over”
i didn’t mean to make you cry, A
i only want to dry your eyes, today
but i mean, aren’t we all so
in this life?

this is a sickness
this teeter-totter, tug –of-war
that is purely human
no animals other than us
keep coming back
for more
be that gluttony for punishment
or addiction to manipulation
we call it “deeply psychological”
but this is just biology in motion
just purely methodical
why call it anything else?

we take from others
for our health,
for our pleasure,
for our dignity,
we use and use
run the reservoir dry,
and in that, there is no beauty

we give to others
such a beautiful thing in the right hands
a bowl of rice to a child
distended and jaundiced and prey for flies and vultures
but to give can be such a grotesque act
when it is our bodies,
our bank accounts,
our stashes so illicit, so salacious
that are poured into hearts with empty shells
never to be well,
never to be truly filled,
like siphoning liquid platinum
into an oil spill
two bodies so precious

but so relentlessly vacant
that i can give no more,
i can’t take it.

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