In the Lining of My Father’s Mouth
yellow meant forsythia
or scorched grass
and black meant mold on the foundation
or the leaves of the trash trees burned.
And brown was a post-hole proving something,
dirt that built character
while the sharp smell of foliage filled the air.
Thin and greening,
while seasons brushed through my hair,
I became sibling to the wheelbarrow,
brother to the axe.
I shook off my coat
while piles of leaves smoked around me.
Heat pinched the gristle of my ears.
But after many years
frost claimed my body,
and I learned I had to leave that place,
its umber pigments
where three tribes were torn
and continue to shiver
like horses, unblanketed, in the snow.
I learned the trembling
of a book, how hollows are put to use.
Father of fathers.
Father-headlock and spare change.
In the grip
of spring, when pines smell green,
he plants coins to restore each summer.
And so I return, golden and drunk.
And so I speak to grass,
his wide lawn where the sun turns
our hair into wine.
Near the green forsythia
my father speaks
about human weight, hunger and flesh.
A man is just an illusion,
an ember shaken from a palm,
and so I return to that place
where my father and I
have been painted and released.
The mower and rake, the paint-cans, the gouge.
We consider them all
with the same-colored eyes.
In the Lining of My Father’s Mouth is reprinted from Blue Colonial (The American Poetry Review/Copper Canyon Press, 2006).