Mama would remind to scrub behind
ears, as if saying some corners
you won’t remember
need to be cleaned.
Papa would decry the Democrats and the Japs,
and the schools these days with their coddling ways
and the new fangled math.
siege at the top of the world
Mama would warn not to talk to strangers,
to the police or an adult, hinting
there are no good
Papa would leave early, return late, fly off
on trips where he was always away,
come home tired, sleep all day.
Mama wanted to raise safe
ecstatic children, alive
and off in their element,
dodging the specter of foul things.
Papa wanted only to break, someplace
to sit in pieces, unbothered, a corner
in which to lament his fate.
don’t you wish you were here