Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2016  Vol. 15 No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
 print preview

Sally’s Daughter, a Young Poet, Explores the Idea of Dad

To hope we are not flesh and blood
more than any other thing
is something like salt cast over the shoulder.
We are full of lame protections
undone by reflective surfaces every day.
The toaster shows me all I didn’t need to know—
Do I look like him? I do I do I do—
and in death, we will all weigh instantly less.
Or there’s yesterday—how in the bath,
the soap bubbles transformed into a sphinx,
thinned, spread wings, and dissolved.
When we were children, the science teacher led us all out
into a dark, late winter afternoon: frost on the swing seats
and the steaming sun tightening wet-wool clouds into felt—
Do you see those stars? They’ve been dead one hundred years.
Mid-leap, a low fence wrapped with barbed wire—
the dog got hung-up and the load of its body
pulsed with its breath or heartbeat, pushing everything
from the tear, and collecting—everything—in my cupped hands
until they flooded and spilled over.
Fathers, years gone—out for bread, for smokes, for blood—
not expected back any-time-now anymore—
their sons, their daughters, me, night-spooked and pacing,
lift the curtain’s edge to see a man smoking in the yard.
Like filing flat a tiger’s teeth, I’ll write this bad dream out:
Dark keeps his face blotted while the cigarette burns down.
Unless we go by way of some slapstick accident,
the thing that will kill us is already inside us,
in all our bodies, built there, belonging where it nests.  

return to top