A Year Later, My Father and I Are Playing Racquetball


until the sweat covers

the tears that do not come

because my body is not willing

to be forced into a corner


again. Not again.

When I was eleven we moved

from Ohio to North Carolina

and my sister was sad


to lose her friends and I was sad

because my sister was sad.

My father decided to teach us

to play racquetball: you hit the ball


and you stop worrying so much

whether or not the ball will hit you.

It will. But it will only bruise. Of course

it is much more complicated—


playing racquetball, you learn

how much control you have

and how much you don’t have;

playing racquetball, you learn


how powerful small motions can be;

playing racquetball, you learn

how important boundaries are—

but that is not the point here,


or on second thought perhaps

that is exactly the point

here. My father serves

and I cannot move quickly enough


to escape the echoing thunder

of rubber ball against concrete wall.

When I was fifteen I graduated

and they didn’t know what to do with me


so I took early college classes

and got fucked up with the cool kids

and worried the whole time

whether or not I was loved


by people I no longer know.

When I was sixteen I learned

cocaine makes you some kind of god.

When I was seventeen I tried


to make the feelings go away

and I trusted you to help

because you had always offered to help.

My father serves and I hit the floor


hard. I get back up. Looking back,

I wonder if you ever meant to help.

My father asks if I’m alright

and I say I need to get some water.


When I take longer than usual

he asks me again if I’m alright

and I don’t exactly say I was raped

but he gets the idea and still


in the moment he seems able to focus

only on the drugs and the drinking

and you seem to disappear.

After you died I was told casually


by friends I no longer want to know.

I tried to hate you more

and I tried to hate you less

and it never mattered to anyone


except me. When I was eighteen

my father and I played racquetball

because what is there to do

when there is nothing to be done?


Now, I write this poem,

looking for answers I know

I do not have, answers I think

I will never have. Part of me


wants to hold on to this.

To you. Part of me thinks

hating ghosts only binds them

to the present. Memory fades.


You are only a bruise. It hurts.

But you are only a bruise. But

you are only a bruise. But you

are only a bruise. But you are


only a bruise.

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