Because I thought I didn’t suffer enough
I wore guilt as a shield
Can’t shoot me down if I already shot myself
Can’t ridicule me if I’m better at it
I practiced consistent self-betrayal.
Survivor’s guilt is a heavy burden
with guilt by association
the two are related like cousins.
Father didn’t hit me (just once or twice)
but in comparison it was nothing
to their ongoing suffering.
He said I was his favorite
the golden, shy, accidentally abandoned
youngest child Princess
with a hole-in-my-heart condition that never healed.
What monster would beat an invalid?—
That was my safety net and crime
I was and still am— an escape artist.
I felt cursed to be spared each horrific time they almost died
I was an unwilling accomplice to their derangement
their drama saturated execution of love.
Mother sent me to him as a peace offering dove
serving him his favorite ice cream
in a bowl in my cupped geisha-in-training hands
My purpose was as a tiny referee
a living charm and catering company.
I was sent as an ambassador armed with dessert
to calm him down
to remind him of goodness
in the middle of their uncivil war.
Mom never realized that I was scared each time.
She didn’t think I was in danger
maybe I wasn’t, but I thought I was:
a big crybaby, a coward, a disappearing wall-flower
crying in the hallway while they fought
a knife fight of words and slaps and dragging by the hair stunts
the atrocities of familial war petrified me
made me prematurely age in my child body
I thought I was selfish to survive by hiding
but really all I was