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Category: Brian Komei Dempster

My Mother at One

I am the baby

erased

from every war

story. The wish

empty in Father’s

hands. Our cord torn

by razor

wire, skies of violet

plasma. I sense

boredom

in mosquitoes, the itch

beneath skin. Fall asleep

to the rake

of Topaz

wind, desert willows

bending over

the stone tablet

of earth. Nighttime

my body curled—

slashed by

the quarter

moon. Waves of heat

and waiting. My lips

on a bottle’s nib,

sand in

the face, Mother

stooped over

stairs, always

rocking me.

from SeizeFind more by Brian Komei Dempster at the library

Copyright © 2020 Brian Komei Dempster
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Brendan Lexicon

Angel, Lion,

Bird. Cluster

seizures. He splashes,

barks

in baths, screams

near edges

of pools. Loves

the school bus. Hates

Grace cutting

his fingernails. Loves

and hates most

things. On some

spectrum. Shrieking angel, palsied

lion, intractable bird. Falls

in cracks between labels. My son. Nine years

old. Ma, hai, duh his own

language. Atonic drops. Intermittent.

He chases robins, flings

our clothes. Against chairs

pounds tennis

balls. Claws tabletops

for dishes, tosses

spoons, thumps his feet

to funk

beats, dunks

orange ball, body checks

the plastic hoop. Focal motor

misfires. Disco bird. Point guard

lion. Wrecking

angel. We clap

for simple

things. Guide him back

when he misses

the toilet, piss staining

his pants. Sit too

close, he moves

away. Sit far away,

he moves close. His sounds

fly by,

he lets out

a sad roar through grinding

teeth. Staring spells. Clonic shaking.

Night through skylights, our peaceful

time. Grace and I

on opposite couches. Flipping

channels. Backs

stiff. Pulsing

temples. Sleeping

through Mad

Men. True Blood.

Waking

to melted

coffee ice cream.

It’s not

that simple. To love

him so much. To hate

just some of it.

from SeizeFind more by Brian Komei Dempster at the library

Copyright © 2020 Brian Komei Dempster
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

A Boy

We knocked Jake Brown

to the ground

in eighth grade, kept him there

with words, Get up, retard. A man

is born strong. I dare

you. A boy is meant to stand up.

But Jake wouldn’t. My son Brendan

can’t. Day after day. It hurts to see him

stuck. The report branded

him retarded, abnormal, impaired,

delayed. Waves of words. In water

I make him

new. Rub spasms

from his back. Come on, Brendan.

Help me. Flat on his belly, he hugs

the shower’s tiled ground. Please, son. Tries to pull

himself up. Slips. Ripples

the white curtain. He’s

safe. No blood

this time. Just clear streams

pearling. I keep

fit. Lift weights so I can lift

him. Kneeling, I raise him slow. Why can’t you

do this on your own? Soap-slick bird,

my six-year-old boy slips

through my hands. Can you

make things easier

just this once? I hold

tighter, won’t let

him slip

again. Jake’s eyes crossed behind bifocals,

he’d fumbled

my pinpoint pass, tripped

at the rim. My boy stays smaller

than other boys. Still it hurts

to lower myself

to him. I need

more strength. Old words foam inside

me, held back. Are you

an idiot? My son looks

away, water streaks

his face, washes

away tears, his mouth

bitter with Dove suds, words

that never roll off

his tongue. Sissy. Jake lost us

the game. You play

like a girl. Behind the veil

our shadows. In steam I tell myself

words will dissolve, droplets

soothing my mouth, running down my chest

onto Brendan’s back.

Four years ago, I told the doctor,

my voice measured, Be careful

with those words. The shower stream grows

cold, I am naked

and shivering. In the drain’s dark well

our echoes. I want to believe

in him. It was just

a report. Jake’s bifocals cracked,

he pissed

his Toughskins. Moron. More than

a word. Sprawled like Jake

on pavement, my son spreads out

his arms, little wings

spanning the damp

expanse. My feet sank

into wet grass. Jake ran from us,

sandy hair whipping

his freckles. Sorry, Daddy

didn’t mean it.

Because he’s my boy,

it’s my fault. I need new

words. Waking bird. Fierce

starling. My hands pat him dry, smooth

his hair. It shines

like feathers. One skinny leg

kicks out.

His hands search

the wall,

push me away

to lift off alone,

stand up to me

just this once.

from SeizeFind more by Brian Komei Dempster at the library

Copyright © 2020 Brian Komei Dempster
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Seized

By day. By night. In handcuffs. Through mind-scramble. Brain-

surged. Shock of force, body taut. Alerted. Taken.

Outside. Inside. Anytime. Any place. No words to explain. My

infant mother, 1942. My young son now. The rug,

his twisted body, his world inside. And what it does. Red flare

or white lightning. Fried impulse or smoldering

heat. A searing of gray or glitter of stars veiled by fog. Her

fragments. Yellow orb, the porch light. Shimmer

against her face. The cradle, her mother’s arms. A blanket’s false

cover. Itch of wool, hives on skin. Things

just happen. By bus. By train. In war. Electric storms. A horse

stable. Desert. Sand swirl and mind gust. Thought

sparks. Word cloudings. Mountains spike against white. A guard’s

boot. Trodden syllable. A thorned cage. Wing

pierced. Baby hawk in wire. My barbed string of words. To capture

him. Capture her. If he never speaks? I carry him. If

she cries for her father? Grandmother carries her. Some place. My mother

carries what is unremembered. Begins to know

when I ask. I don’t speak. Of things I can’t know. Of despair about

my son. We never know. Where we are going. Where

love will end us.

from SeizeFind more by Brian Komei Dempster at the library

Copyright © 2020 Brian Komei Dempster
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.