We Were Atheists

I read about the temperament of Inuit parents
from the night into the morning
and the disciplinarian tactics
they use instead of yelling at their children
the softly spoken folklore of so many generations
that if you don’t wear your hat in the winter
the northern lights will pluck your head of your shoulders
and play soccer with it!

My beautiful mother might’ve passed for Innuit
if she covered up her course, stubborn black mass
of tightly bound ringlets with a hooded sealskin jacket
a wild Grecian afro which I was always trying to unfurl as a baby
by grabbing pieces of it and pulling with my fat little fist

she told me once that Satan lived across the street
would raise the blinds in my bedroom
and point at the little brick house before I fell asleep
although I’m not sure why she did this
my reaction was mainly wondering if she was sick
and seeing horrible things I couldn’t

and she taught me to twirl my rage flagrantly
as a baton with fire on both ends
and the metal on the staff also burning hot
until her hands and mine were a blistery mess

everywhere she went a trail followed
of vehemently rejected apologies
smashed vases, scattered roses
people who used to be friends or boyfriends

and then there was me–I ended up hiding
we were not Innuit or Mexican
or any culture that can be celebrated
in a Pixar film or an NPR article
we were atheists
I’d like to raise children, now
but I don’t know how to do it


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