He said he was going to make this the worst beating
I had ever had, while pulling the split strop out
From its hiding place on the top shelf of the
Linen closet. Then, with its tails dangling
Before my eyes, he led me down the steps by the hair.

I was on the floor looking up at a giant.
Parallel aluminum clotheslines shone above his
Head and behind, the halo of a bare lightbulb.

He brought the leather down with everything he had.
The blow lifted me up from the floor and I screamed,
"Jesus, Daddy, Please stop. You're killing me."
He stopped and dropped his whip. He had said
It was going to hurt him more than it would hurt
Me. I got up feeing sorry for him.

His hands covered his face and muffled his
Breathing. I put my hand on his shaking shoulder.
I said, "It's all right. It hurt, but I'm all right."

He turned away quickly and I followed him to the
Bottom of the basement stairs. I touched him and said,
"Don't cry." He could hold it in no longer and
Broke out in the loudest laugh I have ever heard.
He told the story every time the family got together.