Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2023  Vol. 21  No.3
an online journal of literature and the arts
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My Father’s Voice

When the tide slides back and opens up its stretch of muddy sand,
you’d think something essential would be revealed.
Not so. It smells of blood and rusted steel.
A rowboat painted the color of dried fish waits
with its oars propped up on the middle seat,
dreaming of voyages, its miniature frigate’s anchor biting sand.
A cormorant sighing like a tired child untents its wings,
but nothing dries out here. The stormline’s only feet
from all the peeling beach shacks.
The church roof lacks its steeple.

I was searching all night for my father on a network of narrow streets
but I could never read the signs.
Now here he comes in a glitter of far water where the sun unscrolls its
tongue along the reach.
My father slept all night in the mouth of the sun, and now
he’s coming toward me over the water, black as a cinder and thin.
I spread his ashes in a cold, blue lake,
but the ashes were only the outermost part of him,
his inessentials, as it were. The pith of him
is burnt and living and coming toward me over the water.

If he were going to speak, would he speak a language
of thunderclaps and rockfalls?
Or would his voice creak and dither like a tired crow’s?
Would it carry all the colors of the inferno—orange blues, dead reds,
fish flake-gray, the saffron of a cleansing flame?

My father’s black hand in my diaphragm, like an anchor.  

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