aggressive, you tell your therapist,
he's always been aggressive.
you detail the storms you weathered,
the verbal battering ram,
the hammer that kept falling until
the nail fell into place.
"he never hit me", you're quick to assure,
but you do speak, eventually,
about the threats, about the way he towered
over you, above you, through you,
the ways he threatened to hurt you &
the time you watched her fly into a wall.
but, but, but, but, but
you don't want to be unfair to him.
his demons are sharper-clawed,
bigger, scarier, more sadistic.
yours are a children's story;
his are a news story after watershed,
the kind that gives children nightmares.
(they gave you nightmares, after
he turned them on you.)
you write angsty poetry.
he has to sleep on the couch because the bed
has too many memories.
uptight, you know that's how he thinks of you,
now that his driving scares you,
and you can't stomach motorcycles.
this sort of cowardice used to be your mother's,
one more thing he used against her.
now you are the killjoy and you know
the ways he mocks you &
that he would make you scream &
laugh himself sick over it.
he tells your brother to torment you with spiders,
and you wonder if he would crash a car,
just to see your discomfort.
sober six months, clean six months,
and you know you should be happy,
but you see the way his temper twists
& explosions threaten & you wonder
if the poison he poured into his body
also poisoned his rage.
you would rather have him drug-free & angry,
but it's a harder call than you'd imagine.
everything you know about his sex life
gets filed into a little cupboard in your brain,
along with the ways he's been hurt,
& the other words you're not allowed to refuse.
you try to forget.
every time you talk about him, you joke.
there are words you don't use,
words that are for other people who
Had It Worse.
you grew up on eggshells &
the soles of your feet are scarred
from where you didn't tread softly enough.
you tend to him as an indentured servant,
chained to his garden,
forced to water his needs before your own.
he says "you're my only friend".
he says "you're so fucking selfish."
he says "you're the only reason i haven't
jumped off of a bridge."
"he never hit me".