I stand in the kitchen of her one-bedroom apartment
in senior housing
she sits in a plush, gold recliner by the window
I kiss her hello, my hug, crooked, since
she doesn’t lean in to greet me

There’s no music on her CD player
which I gave her to listen to big band
swing and jazz
but in the background is a televangelist’s drone
like a brown noise undercurrent
to fill the room when silence creeps in

Do dishes soon after I arrive
drove 200 miles to see her, don’t know
what sets her off
this time

Words spew, frothy and
frighten me as if I were a child
I stand in the middle of her living room

dish cloth over one shoulder
stay a safe distance from her
hands wet from steaming, soapy water
her pink, perfect nails dig

into the arms of her chair
I almost feel them sink
into my arms leave
quarter moon tips pressed

My ears start a slow whining
erases her thunder, not words
anymore. Her lips move
but I hear only a pitch like a siren
that will surely burst my eardrums
this time

I imagine my words, swallowed whole
their pointy edges scraping my throat
as I force them down, down
to the stomach pit
where they sallow like scum
on the surface of bone broth

Tinnitus now, my words thrum
rise, spill out over my lips, chin
ripple lower, reach the floor then fill
the room, drown the preacher’s voice

And her words dagger
You stand there, look just like your Dad
but this time I hear me, crystalline
no more swallowing, no more wrangling words

down to cower in stygian corners–fear vanishes:
“I didn’t choose him to be my father—you did.”
Get out, get out
Yes, when I finish the dishes.