Family Album

By Jason Snyder

Jaded Ibis
November 2015


I don't know. Because I like to be by myself?     Perfectly normal to want to be alone, but in her interview, your mother described your relationship with your father as "competitive." What do you think she meant by that?     That he pushes me to do better? Take pride in my work?     Do you feel you're competing with your father for his attention?     Do you ask every kid these questions?     Some. Most are based on the case at hand.     So I'm a case then.     In lending guidance to the biological parents' decision, yes.     Your tape is running out.   Let's return to those stomach aches then, Matthew.     I told you. They come and then they go away.



FAMILY ALBUM | Oct. 28, 1984 | 7:56 a.m.

Matthew and Father separated by considerable distance in a field of tall grass. Dew, breaks of breeze. The two quiet and pensive as they walk. Father ahead, bucket and tackle box. Matthew to the waist, bobbers rattling against fishing rods.

Matthew's expression, restless secrecy. Sleepless stumble, shifting gaze. He watches Father walk and then the grass right in front of him. Both as if figments he fears will disappear. Symbols of the mutable and grave.

Up ahead, the stand of woods. Oak, willow. Bells of cows, smell of sun on soil. Trammeled evidence of their walking. Matthew and Father as if toiling toward an inward silence to which each is enslaved.

Time and again, Father pausing to glance back at Matthew. Impatience, hope housed within this gesture. What these inquiries do to Matthew's pace. Each surfacing just before the other looks at him, exchanged glances sending them back inside themselves, keeping recognition at bay.

For a time, the woods approaching. Low tones of cows. Grass in the breeze. The long, low flow of it across the field like the underside of a wave.

Forest now before them. Moist, cool smell of shaded earth and decay. The gap between Matthew and Father closing. The deep structure of privacy taking over each face.

Father into the dark backdrop of trees. The expression Matthew has for Father entering before him. That of one anticipating the whip of twigs on recoil. Hesitant, yet beholden to the path Father takes.



Fallow field

And how fallow it felt to follow the father field within you footprints a memory earth moist and warm the sun son inside you dying drying the dew do you see on your knees father please recognize I am with you. And to reconcile wind through grass waving what's between us so desperate so separate to be like it was a memory how many times fishing the bobbers bait together to be with him silent beneath the surface drifting within you soft shifting heat. And to complete how many times partner pal the home together seam between you two sweetie so important unpredictable father can't you see your silence is violent a mood to mask the rag fuming against what I need when I breathe. And to compete and to concede sweetie please to his lead one day how it felt footprints hollowing within you and then the next not even noticing field fertile smells the spells of sorrow so hollow inside me you might as well leave. One day and how it felt fist through glass waving blood. And then the next not suddenly searing. Had lit the match how many times to feel the field within you spark the dark distant father fuse for no reason I didn't say didn't mean to feel the seam unravel between you two when I pulled the thread confusion within me.

And to feel the rasp of grass breaking breeze. And to know the climate changes. Weather the storm within him how many times nerves open to every shift he harbors beneath. And to seek the seam between you two so separate. Remember what we talked about sweetie initiative means to reach out to him honey before he leaves. The wound on your wrist an indication feel the red rising cuts beneath your sleeve he will be gone tomorrow or the next day if you do not heal. And how it felt to lay down inside yourself rods and the bucket fuck this long silent nothing for days not speaking to you how many times the house a separation inside you better go fishing with him honey if you want him to stay feel the family unraveling handling the razor blade. And to watch the hook dangle sharp. And to know just by thinking it your mind will cut him inside you something wicked something ill will be better to stir an answer to everything dark within you catching the hook winking sunlight make him bleed to feel like you do a father and son feeling the sun will go out on me if I don't do everything to please.

And how it felt when he turned the field goes quiet to look at you. Sun off his glasses means a mood into the forest you cannot see. And to read beneath his expression hadn't spoken to you do not know where his mind blood cold and thinking into you the hard turn in your stomach beginning to seize. And to die just a little lie how it felt he had taken you to the ocean dark in Connecticut had left you because your attitude ace needs correcting. And to think of the slow growth of seas seize within you six years old had stood there in the sand night waiting for him to return how many times waking to the dark shape he makes standing in your doorway watching you sleep. One day and then the next not. And to fear he will leave you the cold yawning dark. And to wake tense physical and wet had felt the waves waiting for him please come back to get me how many times a dark shape in the dark shifting sand so stiff within you standing the ocean night shivering listening for an indication to know you are too worthless to be picked up again in his arms in the waves carrying you back to the car again to be with him when you were six. And how the lone dark drinking objects in your room spectral listening. How many times standing there watching you never know what's inside him what he's capable of unpredictable an explosion waiting to be triggered for how long as you sleep.

And in the covers moonlit eyes glass like gleaming.

And in the wet grass baby bird legs curled and dead.

How many times the dark waking open bedroom door.

Hoofprint half circle the dark ocean pooling within you when it bled.

And how the hush of him looking into you so restless in your bed. Tacklebox the woods' wet open mouth. And to feel the bark cool dark within you fishing gear tinking behind him wishing one or the other of you will soon be dead. How many times woods in New Jersey. And to let the sting dead leaves twigs across your face. And to put up no resistance to this breaking into you feel the whip of what he leaves for you hollow so many business trips ma'am presentable how it felt to answer her questions I don't know because I like to be by myself to let yourself be misled. There will always be extreme tension for no reason. And to find someone to know you face aggression where you live. Had lied to her eyes yes ma'am I would like to be like my father. To feel the pinprick warm electric right through you cut yourself to release the tension inside yourself to show you have power this is what it is like right before you are dead. How many times the rough scruff business trip kiss waking you a couple of days ace tousling your hair. And how the stubble prick linger had felt the glass shards police station pulsing what it leaves in your skin opening to feel him leave for as long as you don't want to feel anything again.

And in the trace he had left you how many times beneath your skin. And to mark yourself the cause to do nothing to heal to keep them together again. The pond before you two. And to strike back feel the leaves whisper everything to attention within you wondering what he will do to you when you catch up to him. And to draw everything beneath the bark when you lose sight of him. And to harrow the hollowing he will leave you if you don't apologize to the unknown inside him disappearing reappearing through the trees. And to know what is coming cannot be helped unless your mind can picture everything. And to finger the trigger inside you. And to feel yourself winding toward him the pond silver sliver through the trees. Algae surface swirling something deeper. And to slow down behind him on the bank of the pond brackish breeze. Do something to set him off I cannot help but become what is he going to do to me. And to feel everything want the water to still everything unknown stirring beneath. And to watch how he pushes the worm on the hook waiting for you. And to feel the wriggling piercing guiding the barb through me.