My father once threw
a bottle of ketchup
at my mom’s head,
then a fork
that stuck
in tainted wallpaper
until the hot dog
he hurtled next
knocked it off.

I thought all dads did this
so I helped my mom
clean the wall,
both of us kneeling
to wipe the red away,
him standing above us
to kick my mom’s rear
with the toe of a wing-tipped shoe.

My mom left first
then me at 17,
she with a boyfriend
me on my own,
vowing I would never follow
a man who yelled
and stomped
and lied he was right
even when he was wrong.

My face is clear now,
my mom’s I don’t know.
On long days
I watch people,
wondering whose dad
did the same,
hearing their shouts,
the click of boots and rifles,
as they disbelieve the crimson
tossed and smeared
on the wall.