faulty matches

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for as long as i can remember, my father has carried

the weight of the world on his shoulders. it’s not

bodybuilding because the diabetes breaks everything

 

he creates. he doesn’t walk very far—or at all, for that

matter—because his toes curl into the bottoms of his

feet and he staggers like a war-torn soldier.

 

talking to him has always been a battle and in our house,

 the bullets were endless. you didn’t have to try very hard

to light someone on fire, to make them limp the way you did.

 

his skin is chapped and blistered in all the wrong places

and when i look at him, i press my nails into my palms

and wait for the burning bridge to disappear.

 

most days, he is a lump of coal or a match that just won’t light.

he always taught me to strike while the iron is hot but i’ve been

warming myself around the flames of his temper my entire life

 

and i still shiver in his presence. our birthdays are three days

apart and i’m sure this means something but all i’ve ever

imagined is a fireplace without a chimney, a man

 

blowing steam and faulty matches and blisters in every direction.

my father never gets out of his own head, never lets others

carry the weight with him. i know that it’s breaking his back.

 

i’m afraid he just wants to watch the world burn, one bridge at a time. 

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