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Family Portait This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

We wore our nicest clothes, prim collars
underneath wool and cashmere sweaters.
He told us to wear green and black,
so we would look united
despite his wife’s red blood caked underneath his fingernails.


My smile showed only teeth
and no emotions as the first flash erupted.
I watched as Mom winced, the bright light
startling her.


On the drive home he snapped at us
for being so tired, barked that it wouldn’t kill
us to care a little.
Neither of us met his eyes,
aware of the challenge that could ensue.


The front door slammed as he entered, storming off to his room.
Mom vanished into her office, claiming she had work
to do on a Sunday, but I knew better
than to question.


Hushed weeps escaped the crack between the door
and hardwood as I sat with my back
against the wall in the hallway.
Above my head hung fifteen framed photographs.
Just a week ago they had been rearranged,
to make room for a sixteenth.


It’s difficult to determine just when I lost
the last glimpse of hope in my eyes as I study each.
Even more devastating
is how his eyes have looked the exact same
for sixteen years.




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