A friend, laughing, shows me
a think piece: “How to Date a Girl
With Daddy Issues.”
Did you write this, she asks, with
ink or your bitter blood?
I tell her a father can leave
with good reason;
for example,
fighting his country’s war.
A father can leave
cartoon pianos
hanging over his children,
receptacles of dirt.
A father can leave
his body, which will grow two
feet and throw the dog out the window,
or break the toaster with the mother’s face.
A father can leave
marks: handprints, drywall holes,
bruises that burst before sinking beneath
the skin, lurking,
subtle and sure hippopotamuses.
A father can leave
improvised explosive devices
tucked in his children’s ears—
container: pressure cooker vocal chords—power
source: irregular brain waves—switch:
scream—detonator: bone—explosive:
smokeless propulsion
of shrapnelskinandlastshredsofpleasenodont,
the hysteric of a war
in the desert
a father can leave.



Madison Etheridge is a senior English major / History minor at the University of Southern Mississippi. Originally from McComb, Mississippi, she lives to find adventure, pet all the animals, capture the honesty of the world in words, and drink excessive amounts of green tea. She has previously been published in Product 31, Product 30, and the America Library of Poetry's collection Discovered.