Naming Ceremony

By Hafizah Geter

My father, who spends most of his days painting

pictures, says coming home to my mother

stroking out was like walking in on an affair.

Bending, he demonstrates how

an aneurism hugged my mother

to her knees. A man always

at his easel, my father tries to draw clarity

from obfuscation. Every retelling:

bluer, then redder. His memory

a primary color saturating

the ears of whomever he can will

to listen. Over and over, my father draws a loss

so big it is itself an inception, a story

he knows better than the day

his daughters were born.

His heart is strong.

He has the receipts:

a scar between his breasts

that I’ve cleaned like a smudge on a window.

Over and over, my father draws me

a picture of the crescent moon

fishooking her hospital room.

He loses the story for the pleasure

of finding it.

We lived in this

maze for years. I can tell you

our best days weren’t glad.

He’s a history

whittled down to this

single story. In my version,

when her mind blew,

boys were playing Beirut,

crushing cans of Pabst

against their shoulders.

White balls flicked into solo cups.

The night turning

like the wheels of a far away gurney.

In their basements, I was an animal. Not yet

knowing how loss finds its way to you,

or that sometimes when you think you are playing

someone else is dead.

These are the ways in which we come

to name things.

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