after Vievee Francis

I didn’t care who was watching
after my brother drove his knuckles

into my spine. I punched back
twice; got dragged upstairs

by the arm, my hand in my father’s.
He cradled me upside-down,

my bare bottom in his lap
before he craned his belt

and swung. My brother got away
untouched; my father said nothing

is fair, not even him with the leather
in his fist, lower lip untucking a little

more each time I asked him to stop,
the way he’d asked his mother

to stop, and no one does.
I’ve inherited memory by hand,

the one that held the strap
and whipped. My own backside

clapped in my ear, joining my heart-
beat until the two became inseparable

the way I learned to love
is to be able to hurt.

How my brother and I bruised
each other and can laugh

that I was caught. How my father
hugged me before bed

with a finger on the switch.

Janus by Geoff Anderson

Photo used under CC.