Tuesday, May 02, 2006

What’s Terrible

Dorianne Laux
from Facts about the Moon

It is terrible, but not very terrible – Ursula K. Le Guin

To leave your only child waiting at the airport
for an hour, lost in traffic, lost in thought,
is terrible, but not as terrible as kicking
your brother in the stomach, beating your sister
with the phone, forging your mother’s name,
spitting on your stepfather’s grave.
Though this is less terrible than moving away
to another state without saying good-bye,
just throwing the stereo in the trunk between
the quilts and pillows, strapping the baby
into the backseat and driving off, leaving them all
to their own intricate plots.  And though you know
it’s wrong to speak of their divorces and minor
car crashes, suicide attempts, evictions,
hospitalizations and Vicodin addictions, their self-
inflicted wounds—the bullet hole in the wall
puttied over with toothpaste—this is not
as terrible as living without them, a dim set
of archetypes in what’s left of your memory,
small figurines on the bottom shelf of your
daughter’s heart—you’ve kept her away from them
so she could grow up normal—now stranded
in an airport lounge after a summer with her
born-again father who in spite of you
she demands to see.  Terrible thing, the family.
But not so terrible as being abandoned
in a glass room with your suitcase and a bored-
off-her-ass stewardess, flipping the pages
of a book your mother gave you before you left,
your fractured, frazzled, mysterious mother
who’s not sure how to love you, the one
you’ve forgiven over and over, a book you finally,
in an act of desperation and fear, turn back
to the first torn page and begin, earnestly, to read.

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