You can swim?

Swimming alongside my dog

In the middle of the ocean

Is like riding a bicycle alongside him

It’s unexpected

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The favorite son

The younger generation

Churns up a realization from my stomach

That to grow old comes with the burden

Of family secrets from which they

Will always be protected

At least if I have anything to do with it

Which of their fathers never wanted children

Which of them cheated

And the sad story of the two brothers

One of them the favorite

The other most likely autistic

And how their father only beat the one

he considered to be the lesser version

And never laid a hand on his preferred son

Who was simply forced to watch

And guess which one of those two brothers

Killed himself off?

Researching the end of Friendships (part 3)

I’m thinking of having a second child. You know, the more children you have the less at risk you are for breast cancer?

Yeah. Do you remember that my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was twenty? And that I had to stop trying for children after my third miscarriage because the grief was too intense? And that you never even sent a card or anything because you didn’t know how to handle it?

And that is how that friendship ended.

Researching the end of Friendships (con’t)

Can I tell you a secret? But you cant tell my boyfriend I told you? And you can’t tell anyone else either? Not ever?

Sure.

My boyfriend and some guys raped a girl when they were teenagers. She was mentally ill so no one believed her. She got pregnant and moved away, I guess. No one ever heard from her again. It was a long time ago, and he’s trying to work through it.

Huh.

I just feel bad, you know, he’s such a good person now. I mean, we’ve all been peer pressured into doing something stupid when we were young.

Uh-huh.

And that is how that friendship ended.

Why is our family so messed up?

That was the last question

My cousin asked me

Before he overdosed on drugs

I’ve never repeated it

Until writing this poem

Because it was so damning

My most vivid memory

From the funeral was

My aunt standing outside the doors

Saying the open casket was too much

That she couldnt bear to go in

Forbidding her 21 year old daughter to see

What had become of our cousin

And encouraging every attendee

To shield their eyes

And just hold their vigil outside

Instead of going in

Where her sister spun further off

Into her horrible grief

Holding a seance desperately

Alienating the priest

Asking me, at 17, to have a surrogate

Replacement baby

Because I was the most like him

And his father bragging

About the top of the line casket

He had bought his son

As if it was a Cadillac

His eyes incredibly sad and stunned

What I remember last

Was the most important

how healthy and handsome

my cousin looked in his final moment

At my step-grandfather’s funeral

A relative whispered, “you know, we’re the only ones here because he was accused of raping his daughter from a previous marriage.”

I couldnt remember whether I was ever left alone with him as child.

That’s what I thought of first. Then, of the daughter and the wife.

“No, I didn’t know that.”

All I could do after that was stare at my lap and question my choice of attending and wearing black.

That’s how my family is. I wonder what they’ll whisper at my wedding. Something true and equally horrifying?

She used to cut herself and sleep in the closet. She ran away three times. She had several lesbian relationships. If you look hard enough, you can find naked photos online. She spent ten years addicted to drugs and overdosed twice.

The first thing people will wonder is if I should really be wearing white.