(or Collateral Damage)
My father lived
on a remote island of alcoholism and memories
of abuse at the hands of his mother
who got nothing from his father
but the back of his alcoholic hand.
Imprisoned in his brain were scenes of sailors
crashed and burned to crisps in the South Pacific
on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Bataan.
My mother knew she was marrying a drinker.
What was she thinking when she sacrificed my sister
and me on the altar of her enabling him
to make an improvised explosive device
of unrelenting tension in the basement.
The man had his finger on a trigger
that could go off in an instant
if he chose to depress it from the depths-
heights of his manic depression
as an expression of his pain
which we had to pay for and join him in.
But the spotlight belonged to him and him alone.
He truly made our home his castle which
included the imposition of a moat of isolation
that he created with his deepfreeze demeanor
defying even relatives to cross that line
and visit the tightly-controlled archipelago
of his alcoholic Alcatraz.
On a late June school night
my father decided to ride
our little brown pony,
the tips of his workshoes
dragging the ground,
two miles up and down
country roads in a fine rain
to the Bivouac.
My mother always went out looking,
my sister in the back seat asleep
in pink puckered plisse p.j.s with lambs
and me in the front with a book. How much
homework could a six-year-old have?
Ginger was tied
to the Bivouac porch post,
rain steaming off his little back.
My mother stalked in. Her brother
Roy and my Aunt Twyla were toasting
with Daddy, whose beer overflowed
down his shirt and his pants.
Mother stalked out. He followed.
And swinging his leg over the pony he proceeded
to ride back the way that he'd come
slowly - - - - - - - slowly - - - - - - - slowly
accompanied from behind,
his midnight ride canonized
in the fine-rain hazy halo of our headlights.