“Family Stories” by Dorianne Laux

I had a boyfriend who told me stories about his family,
how an argument once ended when his father
seized a lit birthday cake in both hands
and hurled it out a second-story window. That,
I thought, was what a normal family was like: anger
sent out across the sill, landing like a gift
to decorate the sidewalk below. In mine
it was fists and direct hits to the solar plexus,
and nobody ever forgave anyone. But I believed
the people in his stories really loved one another,
even when they yelled and shoved their feet
through cabinet doors, or held a chair like a bottle
of cheap champagne, christening the wall,
rungs exploding from their holes.
I said it sounded harmless, the pomp and fury
of the passionate. He said it was a curse
being born Italian and Catholic and when he
looked from that window what he saw was the moment
rudely crushed. But all I could see was a gorgeous
three-layer cake gliding like a battered ship
down the sidewalk, the smoking candles broken, sunk
deep in the icing, a few still burning.

“Family Stories” by Dorianne Laux, from Smoke. © BOA Editions, Ltd., 2000.

2 thoughts on ““Family Stories” by Dorianne Laux

  1. This hits the mark more than I care to admit. One day I may write family stories. I’m waiting til all the guilty parties are gone so as not to offend anyone. Meanwhile, admitting the truth — I feel — is inching toward the telling.

    This world we are living in right now is making me feel weird-er.

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