Because you were loved and resented
and read to and fed. Because someone
bought you books when you were good.
Because you were used by grown-ass
men. Because you never told and then
you did. Because your mother let you wear
her perfume. Because you didn’t fall
from the water tower in that speck
of a town and you didn’t die later
in the reservoir drunk on sloe gin.
You never had to learn to walk again,
there’s no cancer yet and your family
didn’t take vacations. Because you rode
in the bed of pickup trucks fast enough
to feel the sting of your sister’s hair
on your face. Because your father
was a drunk. Because you were poor.
Because your mother said so. Because
she said no. Because you snuck out.
Because you left. Because you fell in love
with a man and again with your children.
Because your dog died in your arms.
The fires are close. There are mud slides,
boulders losing purchase—a million
brutal ways for loved ones to leave you.
There’s a debt you’ll never pay down,
and it’s not that you know there’s honor
in trying, only that you were taught
by kind people who did their best,
to be grateful for what you have
and what you don’t and sometimes,
to ask for more.