These Broken Ruins

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2020 Barrett Winner

3rd Place Zahra Lahiji

He kneels on the pale marble floor,
she sits under the harsh white light
and the moment is pregnant with silence.
This house is clouded by a darkening night
and when my father starts to cry
my mother starts to scream.

The tears of hard years
carved mountains and valleys
like wrinkles across his face and hers.

In mending what is eternally broken
they have both shattered
and the rest of us are damaged, collateral

I curl in on myself
knees pulled to my chest
pushing deep into the couch
to avoid the lava floors,
remembering the games
we used to play.

It’s breaking, darling,
this heart is breaking
I hug myself tight, hoping
to keep the pieces together.

I convince myself I am not broken,
yet, the moment I try to stand

Everything all falls apart - I fall apart.

And the roles are reversed:
I comfort the woman who gave me life,
advise the man who raised me,
and at night sing myself lullabies,

Desperate to pretend that nothing has changed.

their faults open like ugly wounds
before me, and I falter in my faith.
The idols have shattered before my eyes

and I have nothing left to believe in but myself.