Iliria Osum


                                          (Alb., f. noun – blood-taking; blood feud)

                                                        a hulk of a man,
my father. a taciturn and brooding creature
who once when I was young pulled my glasses from my face
and pitched them across the kitchen. in the moment of their
breaking—because at -6.75 everything blurs into angles, planes—
the pieces transformed into my father’s mouth: a spidering gap
in the linoleum. I nightmared the next year of his hands on my
belly. his thumbs pushed all through the holes in my ribs.
                you know,
                        once my mother warned me, dipping a thumb into
the plastic tub of spackle, never marry an Albanian
man. back then she had thick ridges of callus under each
finger. she was used to picking up after natural disasters.
learned together that living was best in tensile spaces,
in the Damoclesian interstice between undrawn breath and
                        otherwise the waiting gets to you:
                                                                              you, a sparking column, stifled.
among the damages rendered I count
my mother’s mother’s silver coffee service; my father’s father’s Qur’an;
the evenings my mother grimly smuggled us into the car;
the year I forgot; the glasses; three or four dozen hysterias;
my fluency in his universal cipher—plosives: anger, fricatives: regret,
        a phonetic code become genetic; a mutant tongue. this, too, shall pass on.