Summer of Ticks

the summer of ticks, of mom’s wrath
and dad’s denial.
At dusk, my sister and I were stripped naked and searched
with a flashlight.
I crashed into a tree when dad failed
to catch me on the zipline
and auntie’s head went through a wicker basket
in the middle of the night—how our hearts
can do too little or too much, mom said.
Cicadas took the place of sirens.
Auntie came back with an IV and made cold eggs
in not-our-kitchen and my gerbil
ran away, into real woods.

Mom and dad’s first fight.
Our feet—Tess’ and mine—pressed up against the banister,
our backs against the wall. 
Mom was screaming, dad we could barely hear.
The wood smelled like summer, my eye tic 
started up again when I thought about sleepaway camp.
At night, we blasted air conditioners
in all four rooms.
I dreamt carbon monoxide
and the red eyes of wolves,
tiny bugs carving paths through my body.

After we learned of the end of the world
we picked out two new shirts for dad at J.Crew.
He moved to an apartment made of glass,
wrote down subway directions.
The first night he put on his chef’s hat, wilted 
from years of basement moisture, and made pasta. 
We ate at the marble counter, watched the game,
slept on a bunk bed with hot-pink sheets 
in the living room. Dad kissed our foreheads, took the couch.
No curtains yet, so I lay awake:
Lights winking off in the building across, my sister’s breath,
and the river—shallow, silent, churning.


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