he understands that word
because of
his father’s late nights,
because of the rhythm
of heavy black boots
crossing from
the living room
to the dim-lit kitchen
where his mother stood,
washing dishes.
she ran the water, watched
the water crash
onto porcelain & plastic,
to the cascade.
it might’ve spared
the dishes in the sink,
but it did not spare
her favorite set of china
from his father’s flying fists.
the next morning,
his father was
& his mother was
(though it sometimes felt
like she was, too)
& that china
that he’d been warned
to stay away from
was still lying,
on the kitchen floor.
he picked up the shards
& let them fall.


he understands that word
because of
the years following,
when his mother became
strong enough
to do more than wash dishes,
strong enough
to resist her husband’s
raucous behavior.
the late nights of crashing
glass were not
as often,
the mornings of
empty chairs
at the breakfast table
until the chair
& heavy black boots
no longer tramped
through the halls.


he understands that word
because of his
highschool girlfriend,
who had
too much time on her hands,
& too much future
to worry about.
a girl who
used her words like a shield,
who laughed too much
& too loudly, but said
that she loved him
& he believed her.


he understands that word
because of
the last night,
under stars and
city traffic lights,
because of her
& his confusion.
he said
that he loved her,
but she didn’t believe him.


he understands that word
because of
his mother’s sudden
visits to the doctor,
the bags beneath her eyes,
because of her
softened voice &
saddened demeanor.
because of
the days that followed,
her steady decline
& his grief
at losing her slowly,
instead of all
at once.
because of her shaking hands,
the blue eyes
they shared,
delicate like china,
like glass.


he understands that word
because of
falling in love
with a girl who didn’t
understand her own worth,
but looked at him
like he was the sun
to her flower of a soul,
the rain & the soil,
keeping her bright.
she gave him
the power to
burn her with heat,
drown her with rain,
to choke out her roots,
but she trusted him
to feed her with sunlight,
to water her dreams,
& to give her the nourishment
to carry on.
she could’ve been frail
but she was strong
enough to love him
& for that
he loved her more.

Image found here


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