BOOKS: > BOOKS: > Christening the Dancer > Hiding

for Richard
I spend the morning
looking at photographs of my dead sister,
dark mannequin posing
beside husbands, parents, siblings,
her son—people who look like extras on a movie set—
the years’ battering superimposed on her face,
reminding me of Holocaust images, olive-skinned
girls who died in showers at Auschwitz.
Even in the photo where she
wades in a nurturing Atlantic, she
reminds me of some Jewish Ophelia, her
moribund drama hemorrhaging into the spindrift,
thick shadow snuffing a nirvanic beach.
Last night a friend told me she felt
my ex-wife had not been good for me,
that I had hidden behind her like an eclipsed sun,
and I thought about how my own mother was a piranha
who each morning at the breakfast table
stripped her sons and daughter to the bones.
Years later, my father would tell me
he sacrificed his children to appease his wife,
offered us to her as if she were some pagan goddess
who needed to drink daily her own family’s blood.
We all learned to hide; it is our legacy—
my sister and I, even my brother,
skulking in the custody of his own rage.
We grew out of childhood
like houseplants in a hurricane,
domestic pets abandoned in a jungle;
floating out of body in public places;
passing like ghosts through marriages and jobs;
watching ourselves fuck spouses and greedy strangers,
naked bodies move; not recognizing ourselves, honestly
not knowing how we were going to survive the relentless invasions,
the ambushes and slow, secret military movements,

this thing other people simply called life.