My Father’s Unhappiness
At night in the swept yellow gleam of the kitchen
I sit with my father and watch while he eats
I will offer a secret or ask for a story
it must be the milk glass that won’t
let him speak he stares hard at me hard I stare
back at him please it’s my heart my eyes
promise him he won’t believe he says
you cannot never will know what I need
is the throat of the dark past the deck
is the memory death spits on children being born
is the one that once challenged regret and it won
so regret like a god became jealous
My father’s unhappiness is a curse. Is a gift.
is the blue sleeve of the long afternoon
the locked space in the gut of the whale
is the trailing of air down the stairs in the mornings
the front door swung open hey folks he will call
is the weight of love lasting love calls for this lasting
love fills up the milk glass says here’s what you need
I say drink it he spits I say sorry he leaves
I say love you he says it right back oh the air
and right now he is sleeping slow burn by my mother
their bed always wider and white onto white
Inheritance. I hold you like a bird. Your bones in my fingers.
Bird bones, buried in the yard.
from Houses Are Fields (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2009).