Niagara
Kara Goughnour


The falls spit themselves into rain
the day my father signed his name in blood,
the day my stepmother bent his back
over a cliff for a kiss, a young wound
of a girl already making womb her own.
We took a chance on a baby
before taking one on each other.
My stepmother laughs, swirls the backwash
of a beer around, fuzz of a koozie stuck
to her sweat-sheen skin.
We went to the Canadian side.
My father pawns details of his life
off on me like an untrusting painter—
never showing the full view
of his masterpiece, just a stroke,
just a piece of the palette.
Not the American side, he says,
that just looks cheap.
On rainy days, I think of Niagara,
that cacophony of shifting mirrors,
air laced with cotton candy and salt-splatter.
I think of the photograph, the two of them
smiling on the jagged rocks,
my stepmother’s dress jutting angles
of orange stalagmites refracted
a thousand times, washing over
the bump of her belly in broad strokes.
We took a chance on it, my father says,
and in all the aching paths of life
that’s all one can really do.

 
 

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