Things We Should Have Said

by Joycelyn Mok

“he went out
into the rain
without a word,
without looking at me.
And I,
I put my head in my hands
and I cried.”
                    —Jacques Prevert

You always stood a little straighter when you were
with your father. You longed for his hands to find
a way to your shoulders and his voice to find the
words: I’m proud of you, son. But all you got were
tight lips, and vacant stares, and empty palms.
“Daddy, is that what a man looks like?” you asked.
No, was what he didn’t say.
Of course not, was what no one told you. So you
chiseled your feelings aside, hacked your emotions
off, engraved R E T I C E N C E across your forehead.
Pygmalion-in-reverse: you fashioned a sculpture
out of a boy, one with
tight lips, and vacant stares, and empty palms.

Time and time again, you greet my ardent affection
with low monosyllabic acknowledgment:
Yeah. Fine. Great. Cool.
And I try to squeeze the discomfort churning in my
stomach out into words, but it must have lost its way up
my esophagus, because when I open my mouth,
Nothing tumbles out.
My voice didn’t find the words: You’re hurting me
And yours didn’t know: I’m sorry

This time, you have decided I am charring your ivory
This time, discomfort doesn’t even find its way to the esophagus
This time, I choke on it rocketing through my windpipe,
                   it crawls out of my eyes and burns tracks down my face
This time, even as your hunched silhouette slips away from me,
                   my voice still doesn’t find the words: please don’t go
And this time,
The sky bows and weeps for all the things we should have said

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