Sep 142014

by C. Boyce McKay


I see (I smell) purulent face, shank of  black

hair on chest and legs.  Hands good

with belt. Black silence. Black shouts.

Hands, spidery black knuckles


good for stroking thighs of thirteen-year-old nubile.


Black silence, Black shouts.  Stuttered black

Lord’s Prayer in church. He never sang.


Five-years-old, I am not allowed

to sing in the car.  Never


was I to speak of Daddy. You idiot.


You’ll grow up short and fat,  just like your father!



Tonight, as I sing Tell Me Why to a five year-old

telling me why she won’t close her eyes,


I hear–and smell–that pus and pock-marked voice: Idiot.


You’ll never carry a tune in a bucket! Idiot.


You’ll grow up short and fat, just like your father!

. . .


In Greek, the perfect tense of see is understand.

I have seen (and heard, smelled, felt, tasted) the pus-filled fire

of hairy hands and knuckles; belt, shouts, black silence–

but I do not understand.


And yet,


Tonight, I hear angels sing and whisper, we escaped.

I can’t tell you why, but we did, all of us,

didn’t we, Grace?