You Scream At Us And Then Wear Earplugs Every Night

the disappointment that gathers at the bottom of my heart when I look at you

is a lot more serious, I can tell you,

than what you felt when I asked if I could borrow paintbrushes

to help with the feminist club float

I wonder how you look in the mirror at the darkness growing in the corners of your eyes

and find another way to blame us for what you do

your apologies used to mean something to me but now I know

they’re earplugs to block out this screaming pain

and I hope one day you read this poem and you know

that every time I see you, it feels like my skin shrinks a little

and a thick black paste fills the gap between and

no words from your hollow fucking mouth can erase the things you’ve said to me

I want to throw up when I hear you talk

sooner than you think, I will walk out of here and thank your God I don’t have to live in the same house as you anymore

and someday I will find someone who loves me the way you never even tried to

and she will be a feminist

and we will buy our own paintbrushes and make art from the darkness that

people like you trapped inside of us

and you will never tell her one fucking thing about me

you fucking asshole

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You asked us last night, “Why do my kids only obey me when I’m blowing up?”

You don’t have to ask that. You already know the answer. We’re scared; at least I am. I’m scared because I can never tell when you’re going to do this. I can never tell when you’re going to lose control of your voice, let it ride up and down on swear words, and you won’t even try to stop it from happening once it’s started. You won’t even try. You certainly aren’t trying right now.

I’m scared because I know what makes you feel this way but there is nothing I can do to stop you. When I open my mouth, it’s useless, you won’t listen and you won’t care because you’re not trying to find an answer. You’ve even said that. “I need to rant,” you said last night while we tried to calm you down — well, while Coleman and Mom tried to calm you down. I wasn’t trying. I knew it wouldn’t help.

I’m scared because we have everything to lose and you have nothing. Not even us.

You’re living in this tiny plastic bubble, like a room that’s too small and just keeps shrinking, and you try to get smaller but you can’t, and every time you have a fit and throw your body around it’s because you’re trying to break the bubble but you’ll only end up more frustrated. You know the feeling I’m talking about. It’s what you feel all the time. It’s what you’ve always felt. None of us are real. Me, Mom, Coleman, we’re not individuals, we’re yours, and we’re not real because neither are you.

God, just thinking about that makes me feel sick. I know why you get mad. I know. All your emotions stay inside and turn to anger and then you release them on us in this fucking rampage, completely illogical and completely impenetrable.

You could help it, though. You could if you tried, you fucking asshole.

I can’t pity you when you’re screaming empty insults at me that are really directed towards yourself. I can’t pity you when you smash my computer screen during finals week of my freshman year, when I’m just a baby, and I’m starting to gingerly explore painful parts of myself while you’re stuck in a plastic bubble of your own skin. And before that, years ago, you threw the home phone on the ground and smashed it. Dad, every time you smash things it’s like you really want to smash me. Beat me until I’m nearly dead, until every time you smile all I can see is a different laugh stamped on your face, the one you used on Mom and I while we were crying because we were so afraid of you. All you want to do is dump me on the back porch and leave me there, the way you took everything out of my room last year and dumped it on the back porch because you read my texts and thought I was having sex with Sicah.

After school today, I asked if I could borrow a couple of your paint brushes to help paint the float for the Feminist Club. “You’re in the Feminist Club?” you asked, quietly. You were disgusted.

Dad, why am I in the Feminist Club? What do you want me to say to that? Listen, it’s because of you. Because two years ago while I was crying, sweeping for you in the backyard, you were taunting me. You told me, “When you get engaged, I’ll be sure to tell your fiance to stay away because you’re fucking lazy and you won’t do anything for him.”

Dad, fuck you for telling me that. I swore I wouldn’t marry a man because he would only end up like you.

When I get engaged to a woman, will you tell her that? That I’m fucking lazy and I’ll never do anything for her? If you do, it won’t matter, because she will love me in all the ways you can’t.