The disordered family
is full of dutiful children and parents.
We are the aftermath of ten thousand generations,
the flaws of parents building, swelling
beneath the earth until the pressure reached us,
and finding weakness, split our house asunder
with pyroclastic might. From below we were driven
high into the cold mountain air, our molten forms
freezing: mother’s rage, your depression, my anxiety.
I didn’t see where you landed among the manzanitas.
In smooth lake waters, I came to rest, uneasy. Yet still
is the master of moving, and like a continent drifting
with the pulse of the world, I slid and stretched and grew
until I found myself in your kitchen. We are silent,
you, mother, and I, with work to be done: changing
diapers, trimming hair, walking dogs, grading papers,
filling mouths. Without words, we act to make a whole
day’s activities come together; we forget nothing,
need no reminders. Our progress is slow yet effortless
like the succulents that grow along black sea cliffs,
hugging igneous rock, breaking it apart, root
by root, returning to ground, radiant in the sunlight.
Ethan Brightbill attends Northern Michigan University’s MFA program
for fiction. He is originally from Allentown, Pennsylvania.