Understanding the Family Language
The Letter P
I pack my wife inside the letter P. Her hair, boy-short, with that B-shaped bald spot—not a cowlick, but a bald spot—her hair is smooth enough to allow her skull to slide along the letter's half-circle. I am glad her arms, torso, and hips are able to stuff down into the bottom of the shaft. My wife is a contortionist. What does her in is the pinky hammer-toe. Its unclipped triangular nail snags on the X and Y intersection of curve and line. I have sucked her toes before. But not that one. It always smells of dirt and cream and food nobody ever tasted ever. By the way, P is for Prolapse.
The Letter B
I chuck a toy down into the belly of the B for my son to follow. It is the wrong toy—his sister's—but he doesn't know this. Yesterday he stole her Barbie from the bathtub and stuck her to the bathroom counter. Barbie splitlegged, her bald plastic kissing gray, speckled marble. The knob of toothpaste by her foot glowed white and red and green. He licked the knob. He would lick it. He would lick his own butthole. But he will not jump into the B. B for Bad.
The Letter E
I hold my daughter's head inside the E's middle finger. Or do I push it out? Eggplant purple, black eyes round as bubbles and ever-open. She squeaks. Have you ever heard an eggplant squeak? Sq sq sq sq. I say, "Let's drown our sorrows," and together we dive into the basement of the letter, the mating of two T's. We have not yet drowned, though I keep hearing something like q q q q q q. She doesn’t know I know how to climb. E for Ending.
The Letter O
I lock myself inside the letter O but I keep falling out, scraping my knuckles on something I cannot understand because it never speaks. O for Orifice. O for Father.
Family doesn't start with any letter.
Doug O’Connor's prose and poetry have appeared in decomP magazinE, Ayris, Quarter After Eight, The Tusculum Review, and others. He lives in Hudson, New York, and earned his M.F.A. from the New Hampshire Institute of Art.
Illustrated by Caytlin Kuszewski.