My father, who spends most of his days painting
pictures, says coming home to my mother
stroking out was like walking in on an affair.
Bending, he demonstrates how
an aneurism hugged my mother
to her knees. A man always
at his easel, my father tries to draw clarity
from obfuscation. Every retelling:
bluer, then redder. His memory
a primary color saturating
the ears of whomever he can will
to listen. Over and over, my father draws a loss
so big it is itself an inception, a story
he knows better than the day
his daughters were born.
His heart is strong.
He has the receipts:
a scar between his breasts
that I’ve cleaned like a smudge on a window.
Over and over, my father draws me
a picture of the crescent moon
fishooking her hospital room.
He loses the story for the pleasure
of finding it.
We lived in this
maze for years. I can tell you
our best days weren’t glad.
He’s a history
whittled down to this
single story. In my version,
when her mind blew,
boys were playing Beirut,
crushing cans of Pabst
against their shoulders.
White balls flicked into solo cups.
The night turning
like the wheels of a far away gurney.
In their basements, I was an animal. Not yet
knowing how loss finds its way to you,
or that sometimes when you think you are playing
someone else is dead.
These are the ways in which we come
to name things.
Copyright © 2017 by Hafizah Geter. “Naming Ceremony” originally appeared in Court Green. Reprinted with permission of the author.