My father is afraid of earthquakes, and fears that the house,
The world will crumble.
This must be why he glues his eyes to his phone,
I know he does not realize he’s left his coffee mug―
The sixth one today
―lukewarm on the windowsill.
Or that he doesn’t think as he makes the house cold
By leaving things open,
Like the back door.
My mother has to live by the sea
Farther inland she is lost,
As though something’s amiss.
She walks every morning,
Pumps her strong arms
Walking by the ocean
Is what she loves most.
I know my sister feels trapped in our house
She is forever trying to escape
But is paralyzed by indecision
She is drawn to danger like a bear to honey
With each risk she grows bolder while Mom’s hair gets grayer
I know my grandmother dislikes the taste of chocolate
She hides all sweets in the bottom drawer,
I’ve learned we cannot cry in front of her,
And we must pretend she’s not forgetting
I’ve learned to listen for a sniff as a sign of disapproval
I’ve learned to be explicit with my grandfather.
Directions must be clear, and measurements exact
He opens the door for his wife every time
And gives her a scruffy kiss
I know he loves the taste of chocolate.
Both his feet and mine are not pretty
But running will do that, and so will
Standing in other’s shoes.
I know I look too closely, but
Cannot protect myself from what I soak up
I’ve learned empathy is not my friend.
It comes with 24-hour hyper-awareness
It loves to make my ears burn when I listen too closely,
My stomach churn as another rubs their temples
It makes me exposed and malleable,
Charred by flammable emotions.
You are nervous?
I am nervous.
You are furious?
I am enraged.
I know insight is worthy,
But I am tired of feeling,
Of fearing earthquakes
Of being trapped
Of hidden desserts,
Of passive aggressive sniffs!
I am tired, but I am listening.