/ / Sarah Kay – Hand Me Downs

Sarah Kay – Hand Me Downs

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I know you’ve taken to wearing around your father’s hand-me-down anger. But I wish that you wouldn’t.  It’s a few  sizes too big and everyone can see it doesn’t fit you, makes you look silly, hangs loose at all the wrong places, even if it does match your skin colour.

I know you think you’ll grow into it, that your arms will beef up after all the fighting and it will sit on your shoulders if you pin it on the right places with well-placed conviction. The bathroom mirror tells you you look good in it, that it makes your fists look a lot more justified, when you dig your hands deep into the pockets you’ll find stories hidden he left there for you to hand out to the other boys like car bombs.

And on days when everything else is slipping through your fingers, this you can wrap yourself inside of, this will keep you warm at night, help you drift off to sleep with a certainty that no matter what, it will still be there when you wake up. And the longer you wear it, the better it starts to fit, until some of the stories are your own. Maybe the holes in the sleeve are from the bullets you dodged yourself, so when it rips, snags on a barbed wire fence or someone else’s family, don’t worry. Cos your mother and your sister will help mend it- patch the holes, sew the tears, replace a button or two, help you back into it and tell you how proud they are of you, how good it looks on you the same way it looked on your dad, and your granddad too, and on his dad before him and on his father before him.

But back then, back then there was only sand until someone drew a line, someone built a wall, someone threw a stone. And the crack in the skull that it hit fractured perfectly outward, like twigs on the branches on the limbs of a family tree. So someone threw a stone back, and each fracture, each tiny break wound itself together into thread and the thread pulled itself around him- your great-great-great-great somebody.

And on the other side of that wall they were knitting just as fast, and theirs fit them just as well but only slightly different shade. So I’m asking, when the time comes, who’s gonna be the first one to put down the needle and thread? Who’s gonna be the first one to remember that their grandpa suffered just as many broken windows, broken hearts, broken bones, in the first time you come down to dinner and your son is sitting at the dining table with your hatred on his shoulders, who’s gonna tell him it’s finally time to take it off?

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