box of jars

cynthia manick
Letter to 1991
You should be 13 now and Dad still 
calls you Cimbo, a nickname we crave
to shake loose like pimples and oatmeal
creme Little Debbie cakes. You worry 
too much. You worry about our Mom 
and Dad—the music of something breaking. 
It's red with light, all the noise sometimes. 
Put your head in a book of sand, bring 
your little brother in the back room, 
and close the door. There is a suitcase full 
of hurt there. And no, you can't unpack it. 
Think of that summer when you were six 
and our foot slipped into a house of red ants. 
The biting up your right leg—the stings 
and the buzzing. Mama told you to pretend 
like you were a possum, play dead as rivulets 
of alcohol dripped down dark as blood. 
The insects fell one by one—dead little bodies 
all over the place. Mama held you next
to the fullness of her thighs. You didn't cry. 
No hollering or heaving—take hold of that 
memory now; rub it between your fingers. 
The secret of living in this body is time, 
and all the worrying is like walking backwards 
on a track. You think I don't know you? 
Your favorite word is Appalachian 
because of the way consonants and vowels 
curl around the tongue. This is the time 
when you should only dream dreams. 
By now you should know that sometimes 
you have to write, in order to figure out 
what you can never say.