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.