Because of my father’s insanity

he clings to what feels familiar.

We burned wood

instead of using the electric furnace.

Mornings were the coldest

when the fire had gone out some time in the night

and I dreaded undressing to shower

or even pulling my pants down to use the bathroom.


We hauled our trash to town

instead of paying for garbage collection.

Sometimes we’d forget it, in the back of the SUV

and it sat all day in the heat

the smell of rotten food and dirty toilet paper

settling into the upholstery.


But we threw little away.

Old butter containers

and Ziploc baggies

we washed and reused.

Junk mail, flyers

and old newspapers we burned.

We kept anything that was still good

as if it were the Great Depression

and there was no telling

when we’d see a new zipper again.


Broken tools were still good.

Expired food, expired medications, still good.

Other people’s garbage

was still good.

My father brought it home by the truckload

stacking it, stuffing it, scattering it everywhere.


I do not miss this.

There is no nostalgia

about the hardships
he invented.


There is only this wall of fire

in the back of my mind

slow burning

to keep a perimeter

around myself, my family

to keep the wrecking wildfire of him out.