he begins drinking at five;
i begin hiding at six.
at seven, we sit down for dinner.
until eight, we nibble and pick.
at nine, we collect in the foyer.
we sit and we all watch tv.
my back is stiff; i bite my lip,
perched, terrified, on his knee.
his breath smells like liquor and fury,
hidden beneath kind glazed eyes.
i ask if i can please start my homework;
when he hits me, i am not surprised.
my brother reacts with anger;
my mother looks merely resigned.
my brother’s body breaks the mirror.
to mine, the carpet is kind.
my mother shoos us up to the attic.
my brother wraps the cuts on his arm.
i apologize for starting trouble,
though it was not i that caused harm.
my mother starts with her screaming;
then she’s crying, and then it is ten.
we all go to sleep with our bruises,
and the next day, it starts all again.