It took years to unlearn lessons
taught by a father who beat his dogs and children
with a strap—the weight of a man a hundred
pounds heavier leveraged, head locked against
a wall—breathing shallow.
Years to unlearn, still quit a job once because he almost forgot—
walked away, but almost—kicks a heavy bag
a hundred times a day in a Houston gym, breaks his nose
sparring, blood splattered on a white gi, but keeps fighting.
Are you okay. Yes. No, you’re not. Yes.
A ritual bow. Kicks a heavy bag a hundred times a day
until what needs unlearned is chiseled in stone—
first published in Red River Review