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"I do understand the symbolism of it"

Published onJul 23, 2023

Photo by RDNE Stock Project:

“Let’s hold hands and pray,”
my father says at the head of the table.
“No!” I say, seated at his right hand.
Across from me, a pair of eyes widen,
my sister’s, and blink.

My father’s eyes light on me—
narrow as if sighting a rifle.
“Do you want to eat in the bathroom?”

I say nothing,
not because it wasn’t a question. I’m scared.
“What have I done?” I keep thinking.
The creases in the corners of my sister’s eyes
mock my silence.

“Dave,” my mother says from the other end
of the table, “he doesn’t understand the symbolism of it.”
I feel like saying that I do
understand the symbolism of it and that’s why I don’t
want to do it. Instead, I bow my head
and stare at my hands, clasped together.

Bob Kirkley received an MA in creative writing from Florida State University and serves as a high school English teacher in the Florida Keys. His poetry has appeared in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Eunoia Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Better Than Starbucks. He can be reached at

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