How To Be My Mother

(December, 2010)

Go to Hiroshima once when you are 5,
only six years after the bombs fell.
Watch your mother die of cancer fifty-one years later
in a sick, blue room.
You wonder…

Stare up at the stern face of your father on the wall,
frowning,
always frowning.
Ask him why he took you to Hiroshima,
why you had to see those things?

Before that, watch your father try to choke your mother over the car keys.
Watch your son break up the fight.
See your father’s mind fall apart
in violence and X-Rays.
Remember how strong he seemed in Hiroshima,
how sure.
You wonder…

Watch your younger brother scream
that he is John the Baptist in the 70s.
Watch your older brother try to shoot him in the 90s
during a squabble over nothing.
Remember how they loved each other in Hiroshima,
You wonder…

After your mother has died,
grow a cancer of your own
on your right kidney.
Have it taken from you
and thank God that you did not lose more.
Wait for test results over and over,
silently dreading that another bomb is growing inside you now,
tiny and nuclear.
Remember something you lost in Hiroshima,
nothing more than a ribbon, perhaps.
And always, always,
you wonder.

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