to begin:
in the run-down double houses of california, cockroaches
in my mother’s kitchen where she two-steps to marvin gaye and
the sound of my father turning the key; the creaking that
comes when she flies across the room to
him or me, each of us named like a blessing.

in the sunny planet of my house filled with curry,
reggaeton, the lullaby of patois covering
me like a baptism. i float quietly
in a pool of jazz and the sounds of my parents
biting back at each other when the lights
are turned out and the love runs out for
the night or else turns to dust.

the good things are never good enough:
to go wading in the absence of poverty—only to drown
in a sea of sly-mouthed classmates. but their laughter leaves
only the tiniest pockmark in the pit of me. years later, it feels like a seed
that held only nutrients, only healthy things:

decades of warmth
and brightly colored accents,
the tiny menorah, 40-days-and-40-nights of my favorite stevie wonder song
whispered under the pillow, the memory of my father’s hand against my spine saying
it could never bow if
i never bent,
but to remember even gods
kneel sometimes. even the lord
and zeus himself turned away
to ask for mercy/patience/kindness
and still wore their strength
deep in their skin, undisturbed
and whole.

Levi Cain is an emerging writer from New England. Her work is forthcoming in or has been published in Talking Writing, cahoodaloodaling, and Gone Lawn.

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