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.