The first time he tried to teach me to drive stick
I crumbled over the steering wheel
chest heaving as though an earthquake
had pried open my ribcage,
my lungs having too much space to breathe.
He told me:
"It's okay, I'm not mad. I'm not going to yell at you. I'm not your father".
22 years of living,
my father never once called me,
So when people get love-drunk off the newness of me
and tell me how precious I am,
I fear they'll want to be my father.
They’ll wish to pour cement in the cracks he left on my heart
but it's hard to need something you've never had.
So before anyone tries to place themselves
into the brokenness where I will never heal right,
I tell them this story:
Before permanence touched the reach of memory,
when I barely tall enough for adult kneecaps,
there is a picture of my father putting me on the kitchen table,
wiping frosting off my mouth.
I am giggling,
all baby teeth and bare gums.
My father still has hair,
he's still young and kind,
still some variation of healthy.
Sometimes then I imagine he called me beautiful.