I am at soccer practice running around
with first-time cramps, in awful polyester shorts,
cursing to myself, this every month forever?
Dad picks me up in his tan and white striped
Volkswagen van, the one with the funny horn
he Rube Goldberged to sound like a cow.
Moo! I rush to the van, can’t wait to escape,
climb in, slam the door. I notice a rose
on the dashboard, tell Dad how nice it is
that he got it for Mom. He says it isn’t for Mom,
the rose is for me. I pick it up, hold it in my lap.
We don’t talk on the way home. I stare at the rain
starting to fall, listen to the wipers swish back and forth.
We had what we called smacking contests.
Not my oldest sister because she was special,
meaning learning-disabled, but the rest of us.
The game started after dinner, not every night.
Only one child at a time. It began as forceful
little pats on the cheek and led to full whacks.
First dad, then me, then dad, then me.
Of course, he was stronger. I was nine or ten.
He egged me on to continue, taunted me,
which I perceived as play, wanting each sting
of his attention. It most always ended in tears,
and if not tears then burning confusion.
My father always boasted how he could count
on one hand the times he hit us in anger.