I have realized recently that the critical voice in my head sounds amazingly like my dad.
who is dead, by the way.
but when I step to the side and listen to the voice –
not as a voice that’s telling me what to do,
but as one listens to a recording,
fragile and scratchy,
preserved as sound
waves from the past –
I hear what I now call
I have the universal translator,
a secret decoder ring
to unravel the babble and garble of
driving instructions, money lessons and job advice,
ridicule with appellations of stupid, dumbass, and warnings like
don’t be an idiot!
Do you hear that voice, too?
All of those what-the-hell-were-you-thinking
questions that aren’t really questions
that echo worry and fear and sleepless nights
and show up as language for someone
who never learned to speak
words of tenderness and love.
I answered back in the same tongue, of course,
fluent in the dialect I acquired at home
sharper and more acerbic
until the acid rawed my throat
Only then did I stop to listen.
If you set the decoder on forgiveness
and adjust to compassion
all I can hear now is
I love you I love you I love you
and I answer back, I love you, too.
Depending on what you believe, he may or may not be listening,
but I am.