April Freely
Run Down


my father’s flesh is baby girl pink

pushed back to reveal his tibia

bone like a white hot wall

in his brown body


when you open the body

internal forms stay put


my father steady, still standing

in a tank and shorts at midday in the parking lot


no anger in the shift

as my mother pulls the car into reverse




a beating may be

my mother driving our subcompact into my father repeatedly

driving us away from the cutting at the end of his fists


this is how

my father sets his body to be healed: scattering

gravel under the wheels, clouds of dust like mean

kisses at his feet




I like being inside a machine

big enough to kill

when it doesn’t


idling at a light, I feel

as if against the steel

as if the car is devoid of the cushions and plastic parts

that are supposed to console you


Lake Erie is five minutes away

my mother’s bruises bob up

as the Lake rocks and holds


I see my mother breathing

I see the metal bridges

of the frames on her face 

she is a taut cord

holds her hands

out, stretched toward me

turning at the wrists, saying no




I want to say I’m telling

you about the last beating

it isn’t


I try not to hold anything

against the mother

who lets her own hand

fly up to her face

then bites the fingers of that hand


what protects me: not the cage

of bones, what the rocks did

not hit, the glass of the windshield

that did not break


at the Lake, I throw rocks

at the water, so many open mouths

the deep immediately forgets




when we get home I come to

appreciate the absolute

darkness of a new hole in the wall


my mother washing my face, and then hers

in the bathroom, before getting dinner ready

it is not so much about the lie

or the pain, but my father’s

charisma when he tells me the wound in question

really emerged seven years before


Da Nang inexplicably breaking

out of his body afresh



as a girl, I stood on my father’s back

kneading death’s terrible field

in my white lace socks


I threw my arms out

to keep balance on the sacrum

and the lumbar bones

pressed my foot into the blade

at the shoulder


I want a father who can be torn

so I can visit the consequence

of my body against him




on the back of my neck

my lover kisses me, as she’s driven

I want to call this a drive, not a wreck


restraint not unlike the moment

when I’m going after her lips

and my lover says you want that, can’t have it

when I push up against the hands

she’s planted on each shoulder

when the length of her body pins me down


tell me about the stone, she says

which is what she calls that bone-

handle at my sternum

a stone is a feeling of articulation

in the hand, when she cradles this rise

in my chest




years later, my father is dead

so tonight, my mother is the stone

that comes back


she is asleep, in the bright

cold light of the surgical theatre


on the heart-lung machine

there is no beat to betray her          


the machine is large, it can be trusted                                                                

it whirs like a baby


in the lobby, when I hold my own body

every line is expressive

waiting for the mother to emerge

as I sit, my legs an off-

beat metronome

running down






stones drop

into the water and keep

moving, undertow



tell me about the stone

am I the fist

the rattle, or the steel

of your body now

tell me the waste narrative, make a sound


tell me about the white of the bone I saw

under my father’s skin, this moment

when my teeth broke

into view and anyone could hear

the white noise




we back up

and I drive

at the end of the elasticity of my father

at the no-point when the car is inside his body

as far as love will take it


then I do it again






Found In Volume 47, No. 06
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  • april freely
April Freely
About the Author

April Freely's work has appeared in Ninth Letter, Seneca Review, Gulf Coast, and elsewhere. She has received fellowships and awards from the Ohio Arts Council, the Rona Jaffe Foundation, Vermont Studio Center, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. She serves as an Assistant Poetry Editor at DIAGRAM.