It is true. I hated my father’s
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reptilian toenails, thick,
ridged, battered, as if remnants
Of an armor plating that had failed
To protect him from the world,
And below that barreled belly,
those thin measled shins,
Spotted with their mysterious
Purple bruises, and his deep snoring
As annoying as the buzzing of a large fly
trapped in a tight room
That was my childhood
Recurring nightmare. I still remember
The day I looked down at him
Seeing for the first time
A small man.
Though he’s male
they call for a female officer
who pulls him from his car
seat then lays him
on a steel table
and opens his blanket
unzips his onesie
with the lions and giraffes
slips the undershirt over his head
tears open the Velcro straps
removes his diaper
lifts his body up
with gloved hands
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holds him in the air
like a wet cat
No trinket nests inside my bra, no metal impress
squishes into blood-red wax, not the otter’s
footprint in the river mud.
Neither ring, clasp, cartouche,
made visible as a jeweled chain
of grief or transient parchment of pain.
Come out of the night of wandering
and settle where I may give you warmth
bound in memory of a naked day
on a mountain full of golden weeds.
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We are in the floorboards here
I kneel down and lay my hands
On the old barnwood planks
Our first house—big step
Baby steps, first steps, dance steps
The big picture window where
I always beat the sunrise to the sofa
Pink tumbling over a sleeping mountain
A nursing baby at my breast
Another sun another son
We carved our traditions here
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The turkeys and the pumpkin pie
The Christmases the Fourths of July
Birthdays, holidays—all holy days
Our rituals rooted in the seasons
We walk up the hill
not sure how far deep
our feet will sink.
It is just December
and the day is bright
the pines and fir and spruce
We raise our heads
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from the new trail to see their heights
some look store bought
even though they have never been inside.
The anniversary of his death is the cruelest fishhook. Yanking us back, violently. When the days turn crisp, as they have now, when summer fades and autumn crawls into our tiny farming town—that’s when we most grieve our fallen classmate. One year we tried to ignore the date, but the hook came anyway and somehow was even more brutal. So now we meet it head on: we make a day of it. The downtown is strewn with somber-black ribbon. Coffee is shared and then, later, whiskey. We pass the yearbook, we muse, we moan. If a stranger such as you wanders by, the story is told in fullest detail.
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We only say it correctly when we’re learning to spell it, a hint of brew, this month more soft-spoken than the last, and short – though Valentine roses’ petals fall before ice melts. Oh, some whisper it as a synonym for claustrophobia, closing down or slamming doors so fast that cold lurks abandoned out there where invisibles moan and something smelly hides under the front steps.
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I cradle an ornament that holds infinity in my hand a small blue angel carved out of wood meticulously painted in a life lived long ago. Scents of Bavarian pine, black forests that are silent, darkly deep with the residue of Rosstal.
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For thrum of yellow through sycamores and slant of sunlight through milk jug’s rounded edges. For gold-ignited summer and star-spangled boneweed on the road.
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The singing ingredient (two parts aria) is for the pumpkins, the gratitude moment when the seeds go in, the months cajoling vines up the pyramid of lath, celebrating bees in the fluted yellow flower, waiting for slow golding of the green
Read more "My Pumpkin Pie Recipe"