What If

What if I really loved them
when they were savage, when he
leapt across the room to me
and threw me into the wall,
my back slapped the sheer
face like dough slaps against its maker's
palm, maybe I
loved it when she blew into a
rage at my slow chewing, ponderous
work at the table, the table rose
in her hands as if she were an anti-
medium hauling the forces from the antiworld
into ours - I must have loved it, I had their
full attention, they fought me like wild
animals fight with one paw in the steel mouth, bare
thrashing at the trapper,
gleam of the pelt and bared
hate beaming from their eyes - I
lived for it, I lived
against it, I was always waiting for it
to happen. When I sat at my
desk in school I'd think about what they were
going to do, I devoted myself to
the study of them, the charts on the wall of
health class showed
her fallopian tubes, his intricate
vas deferens, the vast
entrails and the 7 layers of skin were
their large animal bodies, staunch legs and
abdomens, sturdy mammals
forcing me to kneel before them at night.
Maybe what I loved was
having to beg
to live, I kissed their ankles when they told me
so they'd give me supper, a roof
over my head, I saw so clearly
how small I was at their feet, how low I could crawl, how desperate
to live, and when I
cast my eyes up to
the roof they made bending over me I saw
how desperate they were,
because I was learning geometry, too, the pure
face of the roof's surface
and the infinite line
it pointed to.

From GENERATION (Alice James Books, 1997)


Poems by Sharon Kraus

Eighth Week, Driving Home After The Sonogram, Beethoven


What If