by Christina Ladd

Goemon! You stood

in boiling water

the pain crashing and crashing again

although your sea was only

as wide as a tub

It was boundless with

A father's suffering

You were condemned,

As you had known you would be.


Though the hard meat of your legs dissolved

Though your blood sizzled

Though your strong bones melted away

You held your son

above the water

Did the warlord see your pain

and relent?

Was he amazed at your heroism

touched by your devotion

Or was he unmoved?

Did your son succumb soon after

your arms gave way—

the last to go, even after your eyes, even after your heart

It didn't matter.

Even if it only bought him

One moment free of pain

It was worth your life

and more

it was worth your suffering

Many parents feel this

but do not show it.

They have no chance; or

they do not know how.

(Short of boiling, which is not done

any more.)

Some parents do not feel this at all.

My father would say,

"If I have to boil,

you boil too."

So I dream of hands

to hold me up

I dream of being

so vastly unworthy

that I can do nothing but accept being raised

and hope, in turn, to set my hands to holding



even if the world boils away


something precious

above myself

Holding to your example, Goemon

instead of my father's

who was never brave enough

to burn.

Christina Ladd (she/her) is a writer, reviewer, and librarian who lives in Boston, MA. She will eventually die crushed under a pile of books, but until then she survives on a worrisome amount of tea and pizza. You can find more on Twitter @OLaddieGirl.

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