by Spencer Williams
I do not know many things. Least of all
my own tendency to see stars and think
first, of dying. Presently, I am
thinking about my father. His back, benign with frozen
cancers. I am thinking of his dying,
and this fills me. Not with salt
water, though. Nor with my own hypothesis
of grief. Once, in the dark of an early Fall,
I heard him toeing softly down our staircase
to glimpse me, make sure I was there.
And I was there, surely. I was so brutally there,
though the opposite was also true,
that earlier in the evening, I had left myself for the highway,
craving the blacktop beneath the swift rage
of a few rolling tires. And how then I was made to step back.
Not by God or feeble memory. I left my toes dangling
off where the open air collected
and refused me. Was made to step back.
When my father gripped the phone, his eyes reddened
into cuts. My father tries his hardest not to cry.
When he sees most wounds, he peers down and waves.
But I was there, in the bedroom after. And now,
I am worried he might be leaving soon. I’ve tried,
but I don’t think I could know home so empty
of his musk and cashew breath.
But listen. I want to hear him call me daughter.
Perhaps this, my most selfish wound. When it opens,
I drag my name to the shed and shoot it
for my father, who I love. Who I find difficult to carry.
When I am home, I watch him jog
down our street in the low light of evening.
Past the window, his steady trot. He laps the block,
passing once, twice. Like my father, I avoid
my desire to well up. Now, I am always some distance away.
For example, when I shave and accidentally knick into small
pools, I pretend to be unfeeling. Forgive that accident too,
Ronald. I promise I’ve stopped trying to leave first.
Spencer Williams is from Chula Vista, California. She is the author of the chapbook Alien Pink (The Atlas Review, 2017) and has work featured in Apogee, Bright Wall/Dark Room, PANK, Anomaly, DREGINALD, and Powder Keg. She holds an MFA in poetry from Rutgers University-Newark and tweets @burritotheif.