My father is washing my mouth
out with soap. Five minutes home, and still
he came at me with that thick yellow bar,
because I repeated a series of letters
I heard on the playground,
but Open, he says, open up,
his hand clawing at my head.

I know now that year was hard;
he lost my sister before I knew her,
then his parents, too.
Later I would thank him for sparing me
the switch, at my mother's behest,
as she watched with folded arms in the
kitchen where he stalked and caught me.

Dare I admit that after he did it
I never really loved him again?
Until the day I left, even then.
All along it was the grief,
the need to salvage control,
but I never, until now, loved him again.