It wasn't just the war. Or wearing a little officer's uniform,
     the leather strap across my chest
Like a seat belt so I wouldn't hit my head on the future.
My sister turning so red from measles she lit up the dingy
     back room where mother siphoned

electricity from the hall fixture. It wasn't poverty that pulled 
     darkness down. Maybe the slap 
across the face, my mother's glasses flying across the kitchen,
my father swaying like a branch some bird just left, flying away
     from emptiness. But two nights

later, I'd hear them grunting in the bedroom, so it wasn't homily
     or forgiveness. That's not why
my eyes dilated against the light, against the laws of the body and
reason. Or why they opened wide in the cigarette smoke of movie
     balconies. Seeing what wasn't there.

From Loew's Triboro by John Allman. Copyright © 2004 by John Allman. Reprinted by permission of New Directions. All rights reserved.