I left my unfolded laundry in the hallway. Again.
I don’t say this is the best decision, only that I made it
for my own deliberate and necessary reasons.
I thought this was forbearance, you not throwing
my laundry all over the front yard. You meant you’d
only throw it when you were indignant. I thought
foremost in an argument, we say family. This was
a family meal, we admitted that first. We agreed
to the rules of eating: to not shun. To not make motions
of covering our own ears at the table. To forbear, trusting
the damage a human can do to your ears will be undone
by God. I thought we agreed this is not contagious.
By this, I mean my beliefs. I mean your beliefs.
This is not a contest of throwing smallpox blankets
over fort walls—we don’t build forts between families.
We do build houses 500 miles away. We do go a full year
without speaking to each other, without holidays,
because neither of us wants to fly across the country.
I have invited myself over inconveniently—I thought
you would forbear when I considered myself a closer
relation than I am. Did you mean something else by forbearance?
Did you mean this poem should rhyme? Did you mean
to change the words in the final draft and tell me to sign
only my own name as author? Family, do we change
each others’ answers on the homework? Don’t we eat
separate meals in the same room, each of us chewing
our own favorites, what feeds us the things we need
and don’t need? I thought to forbear was to not make
you in the image of myself. To forbear is to stop using the word
dealbreaker when we talk about each other’s bodies.
This is a body, mine, and this is a body, yours,
when we speak, only one of our lips move.
But you stretch out a hand and ask why my nose
is so long. Forbear with me. Let my body
not be your body, let it stand in the same room
with Christ’s body and yours, let us stand in rooms
together. Let us resist a mutual urge
to clean up after each other. I thought
forbearance meant we were still living together.
But you meant that you’ll rekey the doors when I
go out with friends who make your tongue itch.
I thought forbearance meant neither of us apologize
for our laundry basket or the fit of our clothes.
But you meant that I should wear your clothes,
the ones that itch against my skin, and stay
silent about it. I’m not tired of arguing with you.
I’m tired of not arguing with you. Argue
with me like a roommate, like we’ll keep sleeping
under the same roof that God built. Forbear with me
like you voted on it, like you trust the democracy
to hold your grief until the next election. Like you
trust God to hold your grief. And mine, too.
I want to cry in front of you. Is now a good time?
Is it more convenient if I remain quiet in this land?