Simon Says

I was hated as a child.
Simon says, Blow your nose.
My father worked, my mother froze
and I was one day meant to be
an entity of their desires
and hidden when their love expired.

Simon says, Dance fast dance slow
to any simple melody.
Simon says, The past is there–
behind your shadow, like a tree.

Simon says, If you love fire
light a match and burn like wood,
but know that fire will not replace
the heat that is elusive still,
which mother might have wrapped and stitched
through and through your growing soul,
and father might have left you with
before his world uncurled like yarn.

Simon says, Day begins
with nighttime folded in its veins.
Simon says, Sing a while
that Russian love song, Grandpa's smile.

Simon says, when hatred grows
around your neck through childhood,
kind words and then a gentle face
become two mirrors of disgrace,
and even one soft voice may dwell
against your will to save yourself;
because a child who knows best hate
has only solitude for fate.

Simon says, Scratch an itch.
Simon says, Butter the bread.
Simon says, Live while you can–
It's so much harder when you're dead.

From Simon Says. First published in Drunken Boat.