David Roderick

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
and grunt-work,
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.

David Roderick
In the Lining of My Father’s Mouth is reprinted from Blue Colonial (The American Poetry Review/Copper Canyon Press, 2006).