Blood Oath

I am one of three

My two sisters and me

One of whom is my mother incarnate

The other sister, the baby

Maybe forever

as the neglect could only

Ever be fixed by her fixing and pleasing others

And me, most like my father – bold, cold, and calculating

As A family we writhed

struggled and separated

Divided by allegiances

to parents who were

Forming new identities and wars

Fighting after tucking us in

Then fighting became the lullaby

When fists and emotions superseded

Us children

Had I been taught to love I might have spent more nights

Sneaking into my sisters rooms to

Cuddle and hold

But I used different ways to

Make sure

They were okay

because

I was surviving too

Ear to the door to see if after the

Screaming shuffling, struggling and silence

That stirring followed

Because I couldn’t leave my post

Until I knew she could get up

And that he wouldn’t come down

And that they wouldn’t be next

And that I had done my job

A sentinel at the gate of domestic dysfunction

A spy at the window of spousal abuse

A victim of all of their hitting though my bruises were comparatively infrequent

I crept into bed, cloaked in the dark

Hushed by fear and afraid to show that I was

Anywhere other than where I was supposed to be

In bed, asleep

Dreaming…

Dreaming secretly

Of new parents and of love that felt different than defending

Of family that wasn’t defined by guarding against

And stepping in to take the hit

So little bodies weren’t beat red

except for

White outlined handprints

All I recall are long nights,

I don’t even remember my sisters…

I just remember

my duty to make sure that my crazy parents didn’t either.

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