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                                         Vitula. Viol. Violino.

                                                                              Violare. Violentus. Violentia.

                                                                              Origin and History of Violence, reads the header.

                                                                              You’ve visited this page 3 times.

* * *

Last night you dreamed again
about your father—

You had him by the wrists:
above your head, the way you’d catch
a snake, one hand beneath his
flickering tongue,

                              fighting hard to not

get bitten (you’ve worked so hard
to not get bitten),
other hand wrestling with the slick,

elusive tail—

                                                                                             Violins: Violence

                                                                                              No shared root for these words,

but isn’t it interesting that the Japanese counter (cho) for violins includes scissors, oar

gun and rickshaw? As in, give me a cho of violins. And some guns.

* * *

                                                                                              Vitulare—to sing or rejoice—is related to

vitula, deity of victory and thanksgiving and Roman festivals, giving us the root for

both fiddle and violin. Vitula (also calf), because calf guts were used for violin strings.

Morning: he has left the bed.

                           Your chest feels like
batting in a pillow, no upholstery,
no fringe. Behind the wall,
water splashes the bathtub tiles,

your husband’s whistling—

                           Mahler-something, each space
between his cheerfully constructed
notes absolute. Yes,

your father hurt you. Loved,
in fact, to hurt you
so all the hurt could flee the burning
forests in his body, slither out to
enter yours, renewed—

he could see for a moment then
shapes he couldn’t bear to watch alone,
a man bending down in the dark to
blow out a crown of birthday candles

Then everything would be sweet again.
You could eat the cake because
sweet is what your body craved.

What you couldn’t hold, you didn’t.

* * *

Violare sounds a lot like vitulare, but it means to violate, to wrong.

               In my old life I argued to a judge that the definition of wrongful act includes

violations of pre-existing duty, that loss includes claims for liquidated damages. I lost.

Not all bad acts are wrongful acts, he said. Not all loss is bargained for.

Standing in the shower, you feel a lump
on your scalp, behind the ear.
How did it get there? Can’t

remember, but that feeling—

something swollen, buried
beneath your dripping hair—

is familiar. Almost comforting.

Like a picture that you’ve seen
a thousand times on a billboard
appearing on your phone screen—
crisp, so crisp.

                                                                                                                              You remember
                                                                                              little things: his white
                                                                                              Hanes undershirt, fingers
                                                                                              small and meticulous, working
                                                                                              the potato peeler—

                                                                                                                               swivel of those long,

                                                                                                   jack-o’-lantern-orange strips

* * *

                                                                                              he scraped from the carrot falling,
                                                                                              julienned, on the open paper.

                                                                                              How they soaked the newsprint.

Shit-like offspring—

that was his favorite
curse for you in Korean.
It had a satisfying ring:
dactyl plus a trochee;
five hard consonants.
Some days it was dog offspring.
When he was feeling, say,
less creative, just bad offspring.

                                                                                                                              Done trying
                                                                                              whatever names he had for you,
                                                                                              he’d pick up the bleeding newspaper,
                                                                                              dump the peels into the trashcan—
                                                                                              tap tap against the molded plastic.                                                                                                                                                                                      

                                                                                              Flick the last few strips
                                                                                              with his pearly nail tip.

* * *

Quote from Marcus Aurelius, Book II of the Meditations:

                     “When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I will deal with

today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this

because they can’t tell good from evil.”

Tell yourself what cures
is the power of discrimination:

                spotting colors in the dark,
singing in the shower.

If you know you were wronged, who was wrong,
well, shouldn’t you be okay?

                                                Sound from a violin (what we call music) is the product

                of a chain of fine aggressions and reactions: draw the bow

                                                slung with stiff white horsehair (only horses that have lived

                in cold weather countries) across four strings (sheep-gut core

                                                wound in silver or aluminum), start a tremor in the bridge

                carved from unbleached maple beneath the strings, sending ripples

                                                to the soundpost (spruce) lodged upright inside the belly—

* * *

                                                                                              You feel fat and sad.

                                                                                              Is this because
                                                                                              of him, what he did to you (to
                                                                                              you)? Is that the right


                                                                                                                              You want to smash

                                                                                              something. Thumbnail
                                                                                              digging into nail bed, your hands
                                                                                              slack on the wheel. What have you

                                                                                              smashed, ever?

Standing over you: he. The hand

                                                                                              (or is it fist?)

slamming the side of (why
are you recalling

                                                                                              this?) the head. Yours.

Face turned. There is

                                                                                              no clarity,

I’m done with you!

                                                                                              no single instant—

* * *

only reel, only the girl

                                                                                              going down, getting up, go-

ing down:

                                                                                              endless loop, bad audio.

A few seconds.

                                                      —Make the soundpost ring. That’s what it’s built for:

                                                      flood on flood of quick vibrations. Make it tremble,
                                                      make it echo every note you play, transmit

                                                      like a good little messenger every wave to the silent
                                                      forests of the body, out again

                                                      through two holes in the belly’s surface, called f-holes.
                                                      As in the italic letter f, since only holes

                                                      release music from an instrument. As in forte, fine, fuck.

* * *

                                                                                                                              Do you remember

                                                                                              how many times he did
                                                                                              that to you? Through you.

                                                                                              There was a thin blue tarp.
                                                                                              Or you wished it—between
                                                                                              screening, shielding)

                                                                                                            him and you. He against,
                                                                                                                              on top of

                                                                                              (only a minute, only a few times, he
                                                                                              probably didn’t mean it) you.

                                                                                              Wished for something
                                                                                              more than air.

Don’t you feel mad

                           at him? (You remember
                           feeling plastic.)

There was no penetration

                           there was

a tarp, thank God, it was you holding up
a sky made of plastic.

* * *

                                                                                                                              You want to smash

                                                                                              something. Instead,
                                                                                              you sing along to the radio—

                                                                                                             On the long way down,
                                                                                              Oh oh oh, oh oh oh—

                                                                                                                   feel the seizing in your gut,

                                                                                              how it tightens then
                                                                                              lets go.

                                                                                              Stop for the school bus flashing red.
                                                                                              Tick-tock, tick-tock.

Marcus continues:

               “But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized

that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own—not of the same blood or birth, but the

same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me.”

(Emphasis added)

* * *

                              O beauty of the bathroom, patience of the door that shields
                              her from the brittle house of him. O mirror in the cabinet
                              never filled with medicine, bulbs in the fixture always electric.
                              O head a ball of playdough abandoned on the blacktop in the
                              pouring summer rain, water in the holes dug by a pencil. O
                              trace for which she searches half in horror, half in vain, of her
                              father’s latest handprint—proof of what the fire did, what
                              beams of the cathedral look like burned. O camera, are you
                              getting this? Take the roof off this house, spot the hallway to
                              the narrow master bathroom where he sits. Show us the
                              newspaper: pages falling open on his knees with a sound like
                              a fan clicking shut or clicking open, sooty wings of an angel
                              neither good nor evil, just a messenger. O beauty of believing
                              in the sweet independence of things: coldness of the
                              washcloth lifted to her head, water in the sink, pacing of her
                              mother in the kitchen. O sanity in thinking even she (little
                              weakling thing) could at this moment, if she chose to, simply
                              hate him.

                                                            I won my appeal.

                                                            When I read reversed,

I jumped up in my empty office, yelling “Suck it, Judge ________!”

I rejoiced and sang, I’d never felt so victorious.

* * *

                                                                         “No one can implicate me in ugliness.

                                                                         Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him.”

                                                                         O Marcus.