You come to me on our anniversary bearing roses, I don’t know
whether to laugh or cry. I think of all the times I spoke of them
and wonder how you couldn’t possibly remember.
I whispered my secrets while you held me, pouring
out the injustices that caused me to be who I am.
My mother worked for the phone company.
Always in a perfect dress, a cinched waist beneath
a wide white belt,
always nylons and sensible pumps, a lovely woman.
My father was a Cadillac mechanic.
He would watch my mother in the kitchen, his eyes
upon his favorite parts of her, as he drank his coffee,
his shirt perfectly ironed, name on the left pocket.
My father was a handsome man, with broad shoulders
and thinking man’s hands, sharp knuckled and grazed
with fine black hairs. He made friends everywhere
but he was not discriminating. He was not considerate.
After nights when his friend was a woman
he’d walk up our path carrying roses.
I would already be sleeping, and I was grateful
my brother slept in my extra bed.
It seemed right to have him there against the
murmurs and sounds of muffled weeping
through the wall. To this day I cannot sleep
a whole night through.
These anniversary roses, what are you telling me?
I question the innocence of these blooms
and long for the Cadillac days – before
the thorns of the flowers scored my mother’s skin
until there was nothing left, and my secrets
remained untold and not betrayed.