Recognize Stepfather


Mark Turcotte

Years later,
after we
escaped you
and the reservation,
I was seventeen, strong
and still
very angry,
and I was visiting there,
when I recognized

I recognized you immediately,
from another barroom door,
I recognized you immediately,
leaning upon the wall,
swaying toward me
and I recognized, immediately,
that I
was going to kill you.

Because I remembered it all,
I remembered all of it.

The little boy,
standing on
the straw-filled
mattress screaming, with
each click
of your fist
upon his mother's jaw,

the little boy,
with your boot bottomed
against his neck,
smashing his face
into the dirt floor,

the little boy,
trying really trying
not to
let you
see him cry,

the little boy,
covering his head trying
not to listen to
the no no no Daddy
from his big sister,

the little boy,
begging God just
to take
you away,
then promising to do it
himself, someday.

Because I remembered it all,
I remembered all of it.

And I recognized you
as you slipped,
as my heart blackened,
and I recognized you
as you fell,
as my hands balled into fists,

and I recognized myself
rushing upon you,
yanking you up
by the collar, baring my teeth,
ready to break you in half,

when I recognized
that you were too limp,
that you were too weak,
that you were too broken
      to break.

So, I carried you across the street
into the warmth
of a late-night laundromat,
propped you up
in a chair,
dabbed your spitty mouth
with my sleeve,
and I went back outside
and I

tried I really tried
not to cry.

From The Feathered Heart, Michigan State University Press.
© 1995 Mark Turcotte
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