Dave Harris – “Patricide”


Like a man, I lied to myself saying
I would do better than my father. And thus he is lying
before me in a made bed. I crept through darkness to find him here, asleep in his new life, drool warm in his mouth, nearly at peace. On the wall, there are photos
of a woman I’ve never met. She’s not here. She doesn’t need to be dragged into this. Nothing looks the way I pictured. His bed an altar pressed neatly. Square. Lines for blood to run. It was no small act to track him down. I brought a hammer. Common, hard,
the type used to build a home. I won’t dwell. His head is on the pillow, and the hammer is in my hands, raised. My mother was terrified that my father would creep
through my childhood window and drag me into the night. We never knew when he’d strike. Him, coming back to take
what he thought was his. In other words, he would come back. I had nightmares of his hands
holding me and not letting go. I locked my doors. I tucked a screwdriver. I bolted my windows,
but kept watch at night, looking for the man’s eyes
through the blinds. In the glass, I’d see a face looking back at me. Once, my mother was not a mother. Once, my father
bends lilies into her hair. Once, my father decides my name. Once, my mother loves hard. Once, my father loves harder. Once, I laugh on my father’s shoulders while he runs. Once, he runs. Once, rage pulled me far from joy. Then one became the other. Can cruelty be unbelievable? I can imagine so much. I am told the worst violence
came years before me. A beating I never received. The scars that aren’t on my back. I should be grateful he wasn’t there. And yet, I can’t stop seeing. I dreamed the color red and wake to find I’ve pushed
my own tooth clean through my lower lip. The tortured voice in my head, whispering. Hello. You had to know it would come to this. A dead man and his creations. A living child with work to do. But give me some credit. This is all me. This was a bad plan, I know, sloppy. But there is a reason why I am the one
who is alive to tell this story. It would be a comfort
to call this generational, that violence begets violence. My father as a child, shaking, pissing his pants in front of his father, who bellowed, “The only thing
you have to fear is me!” And his father, as a teenager, sprinting, gasping for his life, a white man’s dog biting at his heels, and the man screaming,
“Don’t you dare look me in the eyes!” That none of these men
were ever brought to light and revenge bled
from one hand to the next. That I had no choice
but to pick up the hammer and resume the murderous labor. But where is the fun in that? Would it kill you to know that amongst the pearls of sweat
and ruby spray, I smiled? It wasn’t until it was over
that I realized I was the one screaming the whole time. Even dead, he looks just like me the way all blood resembles itself. Now I know what it is like
to hold someone close as blood, and then see the blood. I have nothing left to imagine. My love, what a wonderful home
I’ve built with you. Out of his blood, a ripple. Something new. First hands, then the crown of a head
pushing through the pool. A body emerges,
then another, then another. Crawling from my father’s blood
comes a new line of fathers, men shimmering scarlet, scarless and bare, released from their blood prison. They walk past me on their way out, pat me on the shoulder, whisper, “Attaboy.” Now there is me. Alone in a blood-lit room What to do? What to do? To run like an ancestor, trails of red footprints in the mud. To leave my mark on everything. To sit in the mess. So many years it took for this. Out of the blood, I lift myself. Father to one. The night awaiting my arrival. I look over my shoulder, still holding the hammer. Who’s after me? (applause and cheers) Woo! Word. Um… thanks, y’all.

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