Family of Origin Content Warning

Detailed descriptions of a father’s brutality.
Graphic images of a boy, dreaming
about food at night, his stolen
transistor radio spilling James Brown’s
good, good lovin’ over his pillow. This poem
may unfold, in detail, a husband’s violence
toward a wife. May run time in a circle.
May reveal the husband’s plush
red hands abbreviating his wife’s neck
on a crisp November afternoon, their child
watching from the porch. The husband
is my father. Is the dreaming boy. The wife 
is my mother. Sometimes, she forgets. 
Sometimes she thinks she’s ten again, 
watching her bedroom door, afraid
her father will turn the brass knob. 
That was decades ago. He must’ve stopped.
This poem may mention sexual abuse
in the abstract. This poem doesn’t know
why it must tell you. It wants you
to resist brightsiding its tragedies.
It’s tired of hearing that everything
worked out, didn’t it? Tired of hearing
the mother loved the child. So much.
Everyone says so. Everyone who knows 
that, on an April weekend, the mother
left me, the child, in her very first bedroom
whose door opened—while the child slept—
to a grandfather’s outline. Don’t think
this poem wants to stay in that bedroom.
It wants to swaddle the impossible
contours of joy. It’s tired of hearing
joy is possible. It wants joy.

From Short Film Starring My Beloved’s Red Bronco by K. Iver (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2023). Copyright © 2023 by K. Iver. “Family of Origin Content Warning” first published by TriQuarterly and reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions.