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One summer night when
you were a child
a knock on the door
a friend of your older sister’s
traveling cross country
it was so late your mother
had to heat up a plate for him
which he shyly accepted
his hunger obvious to everyone
your mother tried to stay up
stifling her yawns
but your father
too weary for company
simply shook his hand
and wished him goodnight

in your room you put your ear
to the heat register but their
voices were distorted
in the chimney of tin
crabwalking down the stairs
a step creaked you were certain
they’d heard you but
you found them
absorbed in one another
sitting crosslegged by the fire
passing a tall green bottle
back and forth whispering about
something of great importance
though you couldn’t tell
were they excited or scared

you watched him reach into his bag
pull out a flannel shirt
and unwrap a hatchet
you watched your sister
reach over and pull his long black hair
back from his neck
as if he had asked her to
behead him she leaned
forward kissed the scar
and you knew something
had happened since the last time
she saw him something he was
trying to explain having to
do with his father and why
he couldn’t stay
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