I don't know why I fell asleep
when I was eight at the top of the stairs
listening to my parents argue. Maybe I
thought they'd find me asleep and feel
so bad they'd learn how to get along.
I don't know why I put my fist
through the kitchen storm door glass
storming out of the house when I was ten,
but my mother had to wrap my hand
in a towel and call the doctor.
An accident, she said.
I don't know why I ran from the house
in my bare feet in February,
my father swearing, me in tears
and no clear thought but getting so far
away as a thirteen-year-old could get,
which wasn't far in a small town
where your dad's a minister, everyone
thinks he's a saint, and you're a disgrace
to be acting up the way you always do.
I don't remember a time when the house
I grew up in wasn't crackling with rage.
I don't know why. I think my father
was really a mess, but he didn't
discuss that with me, and my mother
just put up with him year after year.
You get so wired, you learn to think
that's the way life's supposed to be.
And you learn to be angry all the time.
You run away to California.
You join the Marines at seventeen.
You quit every job you don't get fired from.
After a while you don't get hired,
and people avoid you; they think you're
out of control, and you probably are,
but it takes most of a lifetime just
to begin to make the connections.
By then you've got a child of your own
who's angry all the time. I'd like to say
I don't know why, but I do.
I'd like to explain that it's not her fault,
but what's she supposed to do with that?
I'd like to undo the damage I've done,
but I don't know how.