when I was a kid
my dad played this game:
he would ball his fists and
stick his arms in front
of us

start turning them over;
one over the other in a circular
motion like a machine; the way
gears turn round
and round and he would repeat
the phrase
perpetual motion.
we would start to laugh;  
those secret games
only family gets.

he would say go ahead, Sarah,
you can’t stop it;
it’s perpetual motion,
go ahead, go ahead
in his thick New Jersey accent;
Wild Irish Rose on his breath,
and a pack of Merits nearby
one burning in the ashtray.
my brother pinching or
poking me to distract me.
I was so small.
I would reach for his arms but
he used his might and
kept turning them like
he was churning something.
the dog was usually howling
and I would be overcome by a fit
of giggling listening to Matt’s
sarcastic comments, watch the smoke
drift from the table and my
mom somewhere near smiling
and he was right:
I couldn’t stop it.
I was  too young
and weak.
he would just roll his arms,
his hands clenched and say
perpetual motion
perpetual motion
sarah sarah it’s perpetual
I would scream and
jump on top of his forearms
to prove him wrong
but everyone agreed that was cheating.

it was the emptiness
I couldn’t take;
the space from the post to
my side and the absence of
words between that.
and also the unbridled
mood swings.
the way no one saw me
or heard me or checked
 I would spend hours
pacing the small corridor, the
tiny living room and saying things
out loud to myself:
I can make it
it’s fine
I can make it here
or I would turn it up
as loud as it would go and
vacillate between the pacing and
jumping up and down, twisting
a necklace or straw
in my hand
and I would picture only one thing:

breakfast or dinner
with a man   it wasn’t
the man, it was the nourishment
I craved, the nutrition
I lacked and the double security
of food and laughter.
it always took place over a meal.
I reached for it every time I felt
anxious, every time I had a
major transition–the savior returned;
the reverie of an unconditional
ear, someone placing their hand on
the small of my back,
handing me water,
congratulating me on completing
a piece and asking me
the question.
I rarely pictured the warmth
in sex   that wasn’t what
I lacked.   it was the question I wanted.
he always held space for
the long version.
taking a bite with my fork,
it was cooked or take out
or restaurant, it didn’t matter.
it was warm and filling
and good.

 he would say
tell me again
and I would begin the story
where it began:
January 5, 2014,
I arrived in
Kensington to awake
from the middle of a
perpetual daydream.
no, the thing
about your brother
“Sarah,” she paused, getting my attention again.
“You were going to tell me more
about your brother,”

my therapist repeated.
it’s Thursday, I’m between worlds
again and we are finally
opening it. 



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