Family Crypt Chorus Blog
“And on my best behavior I am just like him
Look underneath the floorboards for the secrets I have hid”
“John Wayne Gacy Jr.”
In Dad’s Home Movie, I Defy Him
I’m still rocking on unsteady hips, but already
he’s bragging to his universe about me.
(Favorite daughter; see how much she knows.)
He sets us up:
first the camcorder, then the game.
Marie! Can you go get me number fo-ah?
His voice is gentle, New England music.
A toddle, a squat. A yellow magnet 4
retrieved from a board. The thunderclap
of Dad’s applause.
Aww-right! Number fo-ah, thank you!
Now, how about… number two?!
A shy smile forms beneath the armor
of my thick-bobbed hair.
I hold up my index finger. Numbah one?
You play your own game, huh?
And I do.
(And still I do. Favorite daughter, born
or burst forth, formed
Each number he counts,
I counter. Each number I name,
I find. And Dad’s laugh,
instilling this in me:
As long as you’re smart enough, Sweetpea,
the rules are yours to make.
Just once, I pause
to investigate his camera,
my huge hazel eye gazing at its gaze.
Then it’s right back to gleefully retrieving
(three instead of seven, eight instead of five)
until one day, I see myself, and see
how the numbers have changed:
add 35 years, and one near-fatal accident, and--
I don’t think I really want to be Minerva.
I wish I’d sought your wisdom
before warring for my own.
I wish I could put both of us
back inside your head.
Dad’s footage runs down; Mom’s key
turns in the lock, and I run to her, arms-up.
Jacket off? I entreat her
and crawl into her lap, remembering
I’m no deity, but a child
—but too late.
Those Dead Spaces: When No One in Your Family Talks
My family didn’t talk much growing up. There was a lot of family history that, if not covered up, was at least unspoken. Most of it was barely scandalous, but still, we didn’t talk, not about things that were actually going on, not if it wasn’t in whispers. Certain things were better left unsaid after all. The nice, decent, Christian-white-people-way. No “gossiping.”
We didn’t talk about abuse or mental illness or even teenage rebellion. We whispered about these things as if they were dirty, radioactive secrets. Just like those three monkeys: “See no evil, speak no evil, hear evil.” To do so was to bring a demon to life.
This eventually provided a reactionary state of mind within me to convert to an all-honesty, raw-confessionalism later in life as a response to the safe, closeted, sheltered, see-no-evil-hear-no-evil-do-no-evil Christianity I grew up with. This, at least, is what a therapist once told me in couple’s counseling once. She said I should be careful not to overdo it with my honesty. That I was over-reacting against my past.
“Fuck you!” I said to her. “I’m not overreacting against anything! People can’t just pretend that life is nice and tidy and never be in touch with reality!”
Maybe she was right.
This lack of familial communication is perhaps why I still have trouble communicating with people today, preferring to spend most of my time, alone, in my own head. Unless it’s through writing, I don’t share things easily. I bottle my emotions. I have imaginary conversations and fantasies in my mind rather than confronting people directly.
This creates problems. In marriage and relationships mostly, but also at work. I am distanced person. I rarely convey my emotions through speech. It’s like, I just can’t. This is perhaps why I’ve always been drawn to writing. Why I attempted to write a raw, confessional, edgy memoir in my early twenties. Why I’m still trying to write that book to this day.
I might be mad at the crypts underneath my family’s history. Those dead bodies buried (some of whom are still alive) that we never speak of. But I have the same dead spaces within me and beneath me. Mistakes I’ve made. Many nights I would not want televised on the big screen. Vaults underground I’d do anything to keep you out of.
Sometimes I even try to cover up of these chambers with raw honesty. As if confessing to one crime will spare me from the others. Sometimes it even works.
But I’m still forced to live with the smell.
the green door
a green mottled door winks itself into existence and creaks open. a sort of yawning creak that might be a groan. or a slow flood. or a winter fling with a grad student you never really liked that much but then got so busy existing—between exams and learning how to cook udon noodles without a stove—that your slipped right into a whole life together. chipped dishes and microwaves and too many kiddie pools for one person to own balled up in the garage. a garage. Christmas lights and stamp collections and decorative whatevers until you wake up thirty eight years later as if the photos of you and the now-gray grad student that adorn the walls are poor reproductions. that sort of creak of a door. you never asked it to open but it did.
the door itself is so aggressively unobtrusive it might be a prop on a movie set. not the kind that goes up for auction on eBay some number of nostalgic years in the future before being snapped up by a highly sympathetic man named Tom from Wisconsin. no, it’s the kind of prop that gets left in a studio’s alleyway for the garbage collector but somehow gets wedged in a gaping sewer grate and nobody bothers to fish it out and so it remains slowly decomposing over the course of several human lives. and nobody seems to mind. people are generally agreeable to ornamental decomposition. something about HyperArt or Situationists or other stone-cold thoughmongers. the door keeps opening it and you, idiot, keep walking through. like maybe this time there won’t be a twelve-foot crocodile tick-tocking its way through the foyer. like maybe the disproportionate hangover is ever-coming instead of never-ending. the colorblind pond-scum of its exterior will keep you away, but it doesn’t. though the grass may be greener, it scuffs your seams just the same.
Lifetime Spent Sitting
originally published by Thirty West Publishing House in Marrow
Lifetime spent sitting
My whole life was
spent in the backseat of my parents’
car while they looked for
a brand new house.
In new neighborhoods, with
new car smell, I was woozy with motion.
I asked for the radio and
they turned on stations I didn't like.
Old music and new cars and new homes
and repeated bumps over potholes; I was always sick.
I’ve wasted my adulthood sitting on men’s
laps, listening to music while drunk.
New men and old music and sitting.
And my life is a chart scaled by carsickness.
The Building of a Crypt
My family has been building its own crypt since 2007
That’s not true, but that’s how it feels,
My mother grew ill
My sister left for college,
My childhood rushed to an end
Yet this is par for the norm of life,
But when my mother died I found that my family, well
My family’s house crumbled brick by brick
And while those left have tried to build it back
Those bricks have been joined together for a crypt
Here lies a former family, it reads,
Scattered to the West, broken and disorganized
Nothing has been the same, though we try
The family has died, it came to an explosive end,
And though glue remains, trying to hold two ends,
The effort seems fruitless, and impossible to mend.
Our fabulous blog team