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Len Kuntz

Ignoring the Monster

Let's not talk about broken rainbows or
the bruises around our daughter's eye sockets,
the man/the monster she's chosen over us,
his hoarfrost breath
bleeding hairy fog
across his cereal bowl
this morning
while the house is as still as stone
yet trembling inside its bones,
you on your way to a deposition in Great Falls,
me afraid,
afraid of myself
and the monster,
together and separate,
fearful of damage that cannot be revealed by skin alone.
Instead let's pile dishes into the sink,
rinse and swirl blue milk down the drain,
dry our hands on a white towel,
kiss our once-little girl on the cheek,
nod goodbye to the monster without making eye contact,
collect our things,
collect ourselves,
and start another day fresh.

At Any Given Moment

I lived with monsters once,
not knowing for sure if I was one myself,
not knowing which of us would be the preferred target
at any given moment
because danger can be seductive
and sporadic.
There were times when
I saw curls of fur
waft in the air
after an assault
on one of my siblings,
Dad's sweat spackling the basement floor,
screams banging off the ceiling like wailing sirens,
a black-tongued leather belt lashing the air and skin
on skin
again and again
until I bawled like a newborn
with no breath to take.
An accessory is what I was then,
made into a monster nonetheless,
because the blood of a monster was the
blood that broiled inside of me.
Oh, but that was a lifetime ago.
Tonight at the dinner table,
two months removed from the funeral,
I finger a tuft of fur
inside the well of my pants pocket
beneath the dinner table,
thumb and forefinger working the monster's fur as if coaxing out a genie
or starting a Boy Scout fire by hand.
I fork scalloped potatoes across my plate in muddy, taupe smears.
I clip four wilted peas diagonally on all four tines
and slur a gaudy self-portrait over the dish.
My wife asks why I'm so quiet lately.
She yawns but says
I really need to open up,
that talking often helps.
She says, "Memories are frail flags."
Then adds,
"It probably wasn't half as bad as
you think."

Mommy Issues

If all the bad men in my life
got together in a single room
they would resemble a woman
who looked precisely like my mother.
She's been dead for years now
yet she keeps showing up
in the smirks and smears,
the croaky cigarette coughing
of men bent on anger
and destruction,
baring bad wrist tattoos
and knuckle hair gleaming like black spires under the lamplight,
deer guts glinting purple-black off their skin.
A therapist might have a solution.
"Oedipus," he'd say.
"You were simply in love with your mother.
I see that a lot, especially in men your age."
But how wrong he'd be.
How wrong.

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