“The Gift of Veneer” by Melva Sue Priddy
-after Li-Young Lee
To keep me facing the hole in the veneered door
hung just that week in our two year old bathroom
where none had hung before, he sat on the side of the bed
and pulled me between his legs. Had you entered, then,
you would have thought you saw a man who cared.
“You see that door. You see that hole.” I was transfixed
his voice so unexpectedly careful; I looked into his brown eyes.
I had cried for hours, my list of chores forgotten.
I’d already heard everything, anticipated the yelling,
the whipping, the money taken from my milk check.
My sister had locked the door and refused to come out,
my foot crushed through on the second kick.
I wanted the whipping—just hush and get it over with.
“Some day you will have a house
with a nice bathroom door.
He pointed. I cried anew.
And I will come visit you.
And do you know what I am gonna do.
I’m gonna kick a hole in your door.
Do you understand me.”
No spanking, no money taken.
Never replaced, the door hung wounded.
His words followed me every move,
apartment, house, and every mistake
the rest of my life. I studied each
bathroom door thinking, in the end,
how brittle veneer can be.
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Melva Sue Priddy’s Artist Statement: Melva Sue Priddy, a Kentuckian, writes poems that witness survivance and growth, bringing to light truths that arise out of felt experience; and the common extraordinary.