Emmalee Hagarman Your Hands, Now Weak

Father, you aren’t welcome here,

but I can’t wait to tell you

how my sister stands beside

Kate, holds her hand and a beer

in the middle of the pool.

Kate yells she can’t believe I’m here

though a friend ruined the surprise

two beers ago. You stormed

out the door last time you were here

after finding out they share


a bed. Their yard doesn’t feel like Ohio:

so lush with green I don’t mind

getting bit by mosquitos. You’re eating

your favorite TV dinner on the couch,

they’re swimming in October. I don’t know

my blood type but it must be the same

as my sister’s, our bites swell

big as silver dollars. Your

knuckles stayed swollen hours after

the fight. You talk more


to her ex-husband than to my sister

because he’s the father

of your grandchildren. Your voice

went soft when you said Kate

is bad for her and you don’t want

their friends near the kids.

As we sit down to eat with everyone, my sister

says, out of the blue, These

are the people I love most

in the world. You won’t meet

them, you aren’t one of them.

You said she fell in love with Kate’s

personality, not because she’s

beautiful. The picture of my sister

and her ex-husband on your fridge.

The bus ride when a black man

and a Korean woman held hands

and you asked me why they couldn’t

find someone their own

race. What do you call my sister


and Kate when I’m not there.

I knew who you were since

I was little. Mom tugged me

away from the playground

into the car into the house as you beat

up boys fighting on the basketball

court. You, God of a shit neighborhood,

and them, black. Your

hands, now weak with age. I didn’t

swim tonight, just dipped

my feet into the water.

You taught me how to swim

and how to punch, so I do

neither. I’ll tell you only

that I’m here.


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