Family Lore

Leonora Carrington  Self-Portrait: The Inn of the Dawn Horse



Family Lore

1. Wrath

During lightning storms, my father
rows out to sea. The villagers hide
behind closed shutters, while the man
they once hated lures the thunderclouds
away from the shore. From the hill tower,
my siblings and I watch the fireworks:
our father’s body, ablaze, a lightning rod
for the unleashed fury of the storm.

2. Thirst

My mother draws water from a dried well.
The drought has been fierce. Most days,
the villagers pull out sludge,
sand and pebbles, sometimes the rusty
shoe buckles of previous water soothers.
It’s my mother’s turn to appease
the gods this year—but not as long
as her bucket comes up bearing life.

3. Fear

My sister paints her mind on a canvas.
It’s a dark castle whose intricate corridors
are filled with ghosts. There are stairs
going up, stairs going down, stairs
hanging over nothingness. Small rooms
close in over embers of thought. The tall
windows are never flung out in abandon,
always shuttered against an eternal twilight.

4. Devotion

My brothers are the towering twin oaks
by the gate, their branches filled with bird
nests. Many have tried to slink past them,
only to find themselves dangling high
above the ground, spilling secrets
and hate, acorns that cannot thrive
on our land. My brothers, whose roots
dig deep into the veins of this earth.

5. Truth

My voice cracks and blows snowdrifts
across the room. Another boyfriend
is frozen blue at the table, his sparrow
dog whimpering at my ankles. People
leave when I enter a room, or, embarrassed,
collapse in the thick snow. Then I’m alone.
I turn off the lights, lock the door.
I hold the key like a promise of warmth.


First published in PANK Magazine, Issue 14, April 2019

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