I caught you once,
killing a squirrel in our back yard with a rock.
Your 8-year-old body shivering, illuminated.
Through tears, you told me you loved it.
I assumed you meant the squirrel.
Even after I watched the news—
clips of a 10 gallon blue vat being carried out of your building,
your refrigerator sealed with police tape,
pictures of the boys you kissed too hard.
Even after I heard what they found in your refrigerator,
(two human heads and a heart in your freezer)
I could not bring myself to call you a monster.
Your father told the reporters
when I was pregnant with you, I experienced seizure-like fits,
foaming at the mouth. My swollen body would stiffen and
and my eyes would peel back like paint
as if I were trying to look at you.
The day your apartment building was gutted and paved over,
I began to obsess over your baby pictures, looking for anything
that could predict the way you learned to love seeing things inside out.
I held them close to my face as if some of the innocence could rub off.
Your brother legally changed his last name from Dahmer,
but I cannot erase the stretch marks. I still see your eyes in my mirror.
The scar where they pulled you like Persephone from my stomach.
There is no reminiscing here.
No one wants to hear how you were a wonderful child.
They only want to watch your car crash of a life on repeat.
Your adolescent obsession with road kill—
how you would bike for miles with a garbage bag filled with
whatever cadavers you found on the street.
How could I possibly not see this coming, they say.
Did I squeeze you too tightly when we crossed the street?
Child, when your father and I fought at night, did you mistake it for lovemaking?
Did I teach those fingers to pluck families apart like flower petals?
(I love you, I love you still.)
Darling, was it the sound of the dead dog’s bones as your father
dropped them one by one into the bucket that seduced you?
Did it sound too much like your pulse?
Was it the day I drove away from you—
freshly graduated from high school,
2 months premature of your first murder.
Did I put too many states between us?
Did you put your own heart in the freezer,
next to the thought of me?
Would Mary be forsaken if Jesus had not grown
to be the son god had intended to father?
If he did not wear a crown of thorns
but instead, wrapped it around his knuckles.
Will I be forgiven for the sins I did not commit, but created?
When you were small, i told you
you can grow up to be anything.
Love, Forgive Me
After Rachel McKibbens
My sister told me a soul mate is not the person
who makes you the happiest but the one who
makes you feel the most. Who conducts your heart
to bang the loudest. Who can drag you giggling
with forgiveness from the cellar they locked you in.
It has always been you. You are the first
person I was afraid to sleep next to,
not because of the fear you would leave
in the night but because I didn’t want to wake up
ungracefully. In the morning, I crawled over
your lumbering chest to wash my face and pinch
my cheeks and lay myself out like a still-life
beside you. Your new girlfriend is pretty
like the cover of a cookbook. I have said her name
into the empty belly of my apartment. Forgive me.
When I feel myself falling out of love with you,
I turn the record of your laughter over, reposition
the needle. I dust the dirty living room of your affection.
I have imagined our children. Forgive me. I made up
the best parts of you. Forgive me. When you told me
to look for you on my wedding day, to pause
on the alter for the sound of your voice
before sinking myself into the pond of another
love, forgive me. I mistook it for a promise.