I have been praised for my empathy.
As if it was a trait I had acquired by any means
Other than from the flames of survival.
There is no easy way to tell them
It was never my throat he held up
By the fireplace,
Never my body he pushed or punched or
Tried to drown.
It was never me,
And that never explained my pain away
Or eased my sister’s suffering,
Or my mother’s bruises,
Or the bodies of our dogs.
I learned empathy from the struggle I witnessed;
My own part in the matter relevant
Because I took in the pain,
Took on the pain,
Shook the pain,
Looked the pain
Right in it’s damn face
And held my sister,
Letting the fissure bind us like spiderwebs;
Empathy wove our struggle together,
And made us stronger for the battles we each faced