In My Family, by Avery K. James

because firstborns and their fathers look so alike

it's agonizing, it isn't enough for the girl to imagine herself

as a forcefield or a hero soaring between a loved one and the loved one's

bullet.


Her daydreaming, her shielding, mothwing hands, her eyes shaped to no,

no's mean nothing. No. her mother, seeing only darker skin, the broad

nose, the wicked cupid's bow— none of it

hers—


hails fist and nail down on the girl and father, as if to push through them,

the floorboards, the kitchen's groundwork, the dirt, the burning

pit of the earth. At first, the blows remind the girl of hooves

and underripe pears.


The girl wonders why her body

isn't sacrifice enough. Is there too little blood

in it? Shouldn't this be like

the movies? Where people offer to be martyred

and survive it.


I think this is why I didn't wager myself

by standing between them. The girl is still here in my skull, imagining

the aftermath. She swears to me with a terror bright enough to ignite

the air: You wouldn't have left that hurricane of limbs

alive.


This is why the girl simply pressed

her little sister's mystified stare into her stomach

as she watched, open-mouthed.