And you unearth a photograph of your past and a stranger

You must have been
three or four years old
Pastel and towheaded

Your mother is there,
youthfully stoic
Your face registers distrust,
even while your tiny hand rests
deadenly on the shoulders
of a man in prison-issued khakis
His thin fingers choke your thigh
as he squeezes your body into
the cold space between him
and your mother

And you ask her who the man is
But she will only say
that’s Ron Bailey

So, you Google the name
and learn the arms
that rocked you to sleep
once strangled two small boys

The thought doesn’t invade
until the memories do
You remember lovers’ necks
and the preoccupation of pulse
Your clumsy hips
toppling a television
onto a litter of newborn kittens
Claws hovering
over the unsuspecting back
of a friend at an intersection
As the truck lumbers by,
you shake your head and ask
what the hell am I doing?

You think of his captured
hands, pressing into the pink
ruffles of your flesh, and it is
in that moment you first wonder
about the transference of sin

 

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