Friday, July 24, 2009

The Broken Ear and all its Monsters 0...

The Broken Ear and all its Monsters 090724-1006

Waving a spoon back and forth over a candle,
like the master of an ancient and primitive ritual,
my father heated oil to pour into my brother's ears.
I imagine, but don't remember, a quiet incantation,
his voice soft and low, mumbling strange phrases.
Earaches plagued my brother, who was maybe eight
then,  and the warm oil, my father said, would help.
At nine, I could not fathom how.  I watched
my father tip my brother's head, the bent
ear first, and ceremoniously pour a long thin stream
of oil into the offending ear.  My brother winced,
my father held him steady, made him wait.
I stared at the bent edge my brother's ear.
My father, when provoked, would grab
my brother's ear and twist it hard, and my brother
had perfected the skill of needling him.
Later, all three of us provoked him
with a thrashing teenage angst that began early
and lasted well beyond our teens, but my brother
started first.  He grew out of it first as well, or managed
to hide it better.  Then, he became my father's favorite,
and I the outcast.  At nine, I thought my father's
repeated twisting of my brother's ear had broken it.
But perhaps he was born that way, broken,
with the seventh-generation curse from our pirate
ancestors or with some twist of genetics that no nurture
could overcome.  Broken ears or not, we each
drew on ourselves the fury of first our parents
and then our partners with the flailing, provocative
monsters we kept caged within.

Mary Stebbins Taitt
090724-1006-2a(2), 1st, Thursday, July 23, 2009, 12:43 PM

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