Molly Peacock
September 2007


Say You Love Me

What happened earlier I'm not sure of.
Of course he was drunk, but often he was.
His face looked like a ham on a hook above

me—I was pinned to the chair because
he'd hunkered over me with arms like jaws
pried open by the chair arms.  "Do you love

me?" he began to sob.  "Say you love me!"
I held out.  I was probably fifteen.
What had happened?  Had my mother—had she

said or done something?  Or had he just been
drinking too long after work?  "He'll get mean,"
my sister hissed, "just tell him."  I brought my knee

up to kick him, but was too scared.  Nothing
could have got the words out of me then.  Rage
shut me up, yet "DO YOU?" was beginning

to peel, as of live layers of skin, age
from age from age from him until he gazed
through hysteria as a wet baby thing

repeating, "Do you love me?  Say you do,"
in baby chokes, only loud, for they came
from a man.  There wouldn't be a rescue

from my mother, still at work.  The same
choking sobs said, "Love me, love me," and my game
was breaking down because I couldn't do

anything, not escape into my own
refusal, I won't, I won't, not fantasize
a kind, rich father, not fill the narrowed zone,

empty except for confusion until the size
of my fear ballooned as I saw his eyes,
blurred, taurean—my sister screamed—unknown,

unknown to me, a voice rose and levelled
off, "I love you," I said.  "Say 'I love you,
  "I love you, Dad," I whispered, levelled

by defeat into a cardboard image, untrue,
unbending.  I was surprised I could move
as I did to get up, but he stayed, burled

onto the chair—my monstrous fear—she screamed,
my sister, "Dad, the phone!  Go answer it!"
The phone wasn't ringing, yet he seemed

to move toward it, and I ran.  He had a fit—
"It's not ringing!”—but I was at the edge of it
as he collapsed into the chair and blamed

both of us at a distance.  No, the phone
was not ringing.  There was no world out there,
so there we remained, completely alone.  


From Cornucopia:  New & Selected Poems, (W.W. Norton and Company, 2002).