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“Don’t. Move. A muscle,” his father says
To his sister, then rises from his place
At the table, strides down the hall to his office,
And opens and closes the door with a click.
He, his mother, and sister stare at the dinner table.
They examine the woodgrain, seek visions
From the swirling designs. If they’re quiet
Enough, they pray, he’ll fall back to his work.
If they don’t make a sound, he will, they hope, forget.
Then they hear again the click open and shut
Of the door, his footsteps down the hall,
And he reappears in the kitchen with a pair
Of silver shears, the bronze screw of its hinge
The scared eye of an animal as he sits before
His sister, opens the scissors before her face,
And removes her bangs in a single snip.
My father is a good man. “Dad,” I’ve said
To him some nights, “you were a good dad.”
Yet, when I recall my sister’s bangs falling
To the table so my father can see the truth or lie
In her eyes, I return to the scene he painted
The night I was 10 when he’d caught me stealing
“Yet again” and “for the last goddamn time”:
My arrest, the prison they’d put me in,
The metal table they’d strap me to, the scissors
They’d use to un-man me “just like these,”
He said, holding those shears to the light.
To this day, my sister and I wonder if Dad
Got it right. “Fear,” he explained years later,
“Is sometimes the only tool.” “And I did, after all,”
My sister says, “confess. And my bangs?
They grew back.” “And I did,” I admit, “apologize
To everyone I stole from…and look how proud
Dad is of me now.” But then there are
My sister’s eyes after Dad’s removed her hair,
Green and still as the eyes of a predator.
Then there’s Mom, my sister reminds me,
“our mother,” sitting quietly in her seat,
Her hands folded silently in her lap.
Copyright 2022 Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum