I have written this poem and made it sound worse than it was. Then better.
I have put in a gun. I have written it out again. I have made myself say no
when I didn’t. I have tried to write why I didn’t say no when I could have.
I have tried to explain the back of my neck, that feeling, when you know
something bad is about to happen, that animal revolt. Once, I felt a rattlesnake.
I mean I felt before I saw. I mean my body told me. But back to that night. No
other way it could have gone, or so it seems now. It seemed different then.
The restaurant, white tablecloth, rack of lamb, quiet loud as velvet, no
prices on the menu. His house just down the street. I went there with him.
Which is what I’m supposed to say now, the thing I did that I should not
have done. Only when he closed the door behind us, my body spoke.
Reminding me of—what? The back of my neck. Not
here, I told my body, meaning, wait till I’m alone to talk like that.
And it listened. Years of attrition trained my body to wait, to stop, no
argument. I stayed in my chair. I never said the secret. His tongue was a fish.
His tongue was a fish in my mouth, heavy wet muscle. I said nothing
when he splashed whiskey into the crystal glass. That’s my father, he said.
Pointing. On the wall, old gold frames, photographs, the flag, I said nothing
although I knew the face from the newspaper I said nothing. I thought.
The door (oak) locked. The walls (stone) thick. My throat was taught not
to shout in a quiet place, and when it was time, I found it could not.
Would not. Later, I had to forgive my throat. What you think happened did not
happen. Instead, a sound, a shot, a car backfiring.
He looked up. I fought to my feet, the floor, the door. I never said no
but my whole body meant it. He could hear the sound outside but not
my body. Never said no. There is the law. And then there is something better.