“Familial Burdens” – Sarena Pollock

My grandmother tells me the story of her abandonment

at every holiday dinner, every time she remembers

the smell of whiskey on her father’s breath


and we drive past the birthplace of her legacy

at her old childhood home.

There, that’s the house I grew up in, the one on the hill


and I expect her to scream, or cry, or laugh

but she says nothing.

She lets the silence fill in the story for her.


I dismiss my father’s call for the third time this week,

and every time I do, she reminds me

At least your father calls. 


Fatherhood is an illness my family refuses to treat,

the missing link in our bloodline that no one seems to notice.

Through the kitchen door, I watch my grandmother


read the letters addressed to me from my father,

and part of me wants to scream

but the other part lets her continue


because maybe she likes to imagine his letters

as the ones she never received from her own.

The other day, she told me her father finally died at 95


and I asked if she went to the funeral.

She just laughed, said,

He’s been dead to me for 63 years.


I don’t ask why she never sent the letters

she’s rewritten to him over the years.

Sometimes it’s easier to imagine having a dead father


than one who left.


Sarena Pollock is a poet and essayist from Pottstown, Pennsylvania. She is an upcoming graduate of Susquehanna University with a BA in Creative Writing, where she is the recipient of the Gary and Elizabeth Fincke Outstanding Senior Portfolio Prize. She is an intern for Santa Fe Writers Project and President of SU Slam Poetry Club, and her debut chapbook “After the Impact” was published by Chrysalis Press of Susquehanna University in 2019. Her work appears in Chicago Quarterly Review,  Albion Review, Laurel Moon, and Kissing Dynamite, among others. Follow her on Twitter @sarena_pollock and check out her website https://sarenapollock.wixsite.com/writer to stay updated on her daily misadventures.

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