Todd Dillard


When did you first learn your mother was an addict?

              It was like hearing a bell ring
              every silence replaced with glass / shattering

              the sound spreading like news or fire
              through my childhood / my then / my now / my old age

              so when my mother held me as a baby
              her arms hummed with an addict’s shiver

              when she touched my hair to tuck me in
              she exhaled moths / when she laughed
              she laughed as if

              already drowned / I am getting lost

              I knew / and then it was like I always knew
              I cannot source the knowing

What about your friends?

              a friend knows when they should
              not know / when to step over

              a nightgowned body
              stiff as a specimen in the foyer

              how to help
              when you’re feeling mischievous
              draw those chalk lines around her

              how to say when do you think she will wake up
              or die in a way that says I love you

              and am willing
              to approach your edges

Describe a typical day.

              I would ghost home from school
              and find her flesh-
              puddled / boneless on the toilet

              when I cupped my ear
              to catch her breaths / she fell

              she hit the ground / she burst
              into a thousand down feathers

              so many I couldn’t breathe
              I couldn’t breathe / without breathing her

              dinner that night would be fault
              all of it mine / I ate every bite

Why do you drink so much?

              If love exists
              at the bottom of a well

              it exists
              in the bottom of a throat / I mean

              if love exists in drowning
              it is born in gasps / I mean / have I told you

              my favorite bedtime story / it’s the one
              where headlights cut into a scream

              it ends when a window shatters / invents
              new constellations / on the gravel / sky

Is there anything else you would like to say?

              what I said in the beginning
              about the bell

              what I mean is
              we all have glass tongues

              and learning to speak / hard truths
              invents a shattered language

              what do you think it is I am
              holding / up to the light

Todd Dillard’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including Best New Poets, Electric Literature, Nimrod, Split Lip Magazine, and Barrelhouse. He was a finalist for the Best Small Fictions 2018 anthology, and has recently been nominated for Best of the Net. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and daughter.