on each wrinkled, spotted page of my memory
turning with the heavy, fluttering sound of wings not used to flight,
there are pictures of you:

tugging a comb through my tangled hair, oblivious to my cries/

standing before a pot of gumbo on the stove/

beside me at the sink, washing dishes
and handing them to me to dry as you sang otis redding/

screaming in fury because uncle brandon and i
(is he with you?) kept fighting/

speeding down streets in your old car
with the paint chipping off and the roof peeling
to reveal rusted metal over my head/

asleep, with me curled up atop your stomach and giggling
each time i heard water sloshing inside it.

and as i trace these images, smooth my fingers
over the buckling paper and let them linger on a smile,
on a lock of your ever-changing hair (just like mine now),
on our hands clasped together as you spoke your strange words of advice to me
amid snide comments about men and their one-track minds,

i keep wondering: was there something that i missed in these pictures?
should i have guessed, as young as i was?

i don’t suppose i could have–
i was only an infant/two/five/ten/eleven (the last year)–
but sitting in psychology classrooms, poring over pages
shaped like the keys to unlock my confusion,
the thought plagues me:

how could i have never known
that your mind was not your own?


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