Twenty Lines Toward An Autobiography
My father the man with the largest penis I have ever seen
apart from the stars of the adult entertainment industry
who long ago wrapped his callused hands around his own
father's honored talent for meeting obligations to the letter
if not also the spirit and so I have never been awake early
enough to see him rise from his bed and dress: Drunk or not
he would leave the house by dawn to reach the work site
even if on some mornings I half-heard the rocky shake
of his tool box after he had ground the garage door down
behind him. In this way I have known him as a man of authority.
My mother the woman who has made love with my father
for years kneeled away the better part of each Christmas Eve
at the Nativity by pulling us in close like the supplicant shepherd
his few sheep before tugging the vision of his hand from the bar
down in his right front pocket where his keys jingled to turn
over his truck and lurch the reverse route home at last
unrevving in our driveway as shaken headlights splashed gold
across the windows and front door to end in the gagged silence
of the engine: Late for dinner but not for presents. In this way
I have known her as a woman who has taken everything given.
Mother, One or The Other
I had made my mind a bed of winding sheets
sewn closed like lips to the cause.
She was essential to me and kept the ceiling
from dropping its one white card to the floor.
Now her bed is a box in the box of the room,
the lying done, the paragraph written for form,
an obituary clipped from the page and tucked
under transparent plastic.
The chisel will lift and pass through
to shape its absence in a name
and a language will be brought forth from stone.
Yet we speak only of the arcs of flowers
pouring out their undeniable light
into the world always on the brink
of losing itself to the next world.
We burn and the smoke feeds the air
and we judge its weight
unwilling to believe that nothing has changed.
The silver edges of leaves
are dazzling after rain.
They thin the air, slow it to a guess;
as if chains had fallen all night;
the grass in loose beads
that will measure to its roots
its negative height in earth
which is why I believe
she taught me to pray
in the morning
to ask for mercy early on
while the light is still this gentle and benign.