On Growth

When he left, I felt the slow unraveling
of relief, the same relief I’ve felt when
approaching the broken body of an animal
in the road, only to realize it is the husk
of a tire, a loss that does not require me
to mourn it. True, I lost my father,
but I had been losing him all my youth,
had learned to grow around the strange grief
of presence, of a father unmaking himself
while I watched. When he left, I’d aged
out of childhood, grown tired of kneeling
beside the dry riverbed each day to envy
the bleached stones, their smoothness
shaped by a water my hands had never
touched. His parting words to me were
through email. My response bounced
back, undelivered. In the blue glare
of the screen, I looked at my shame
and saw that it was his—that he had
given it to me, named it daughter.
When he left, I traveled to a grove
of giant sequoias, a place clean
and damp as my earliest memory,
to look into the hollow of a tree
carved by fire. When I placed
my hand on its body, the bark
was warm against my skin.


Mollie O’Leary is an MFA student in poetry at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her work previously appears or is forthcoming in journals such as Poetry Online, COUNTERCLOCK and DIALOGIST. She has, at varying points in time, called Massachusetts, Ohio, and Texas home.

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