My father hardly ever said a word to me.
He held his language, his family,
his lovely garden so close
to his rolled up sleeves, so tight
within his fists, that words, I thought,
must be terrible, so painful
he never wanted to mouth them,
only wanted to strike them,
never wanted to release them
like the white butterflies fluttering
between his pumpkin blossoms
and green rosemary,
never wanted to inflict them
like the leather strap
he took from a rusty nail
on a post in the kitchen
to quiet my questions,
my eager and loud talking,
my childhood singing.
Later, in a dream, I found my father
sitting on a wrought-iron bench
in the Park of Pigeons.
There was a blue fountain pen,
the nib a shiny fine gold.
A notecard streaked with pigeon shit,
the words elegant illegible purple lines
like waves searching for a shore.
The shadows of palms
tiger-stripping his open hands,
his thighs, the freshly picked tomatoes
ripening in a circle in front of his shoes
powdered with red dust.
Decades had passed.
There was no time left to blame,
or forgive. I loved the smell
of old leather. His brown face,
streaked with salt, waves.
He wiped his eyes.
Opened his mouth.
We both looked to the sky
as the pigeons sprang up
and whirled in the alabaster light.
I awoke in a fever. My sheets wet.
My hands chilled. Bluing. Outside
alba. Alba, al alba. All this new snow
falling on my father’s garden.
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