A Fall Poem

White fuzz on the potted rosemary might kill it
if I don’t do something. Lazy or too busy.
I don’t make the nontoxic spray.
I place the pot in the rain, hope its spores
don’t drift to other plants. Accept its days
are limited. Late summer. Three volunteer
larkspur in fake terracotta, ferny mysteries
that came with the house, are dead, the basil dwarfed,
petunias barely blooming one per scanty stalk.
High altitude abundance pulls back into a paler self.
I rip open papery tripartite pods, cast black seeds
like pepper over the deck. Don’t hope.

Just weeks ago larkspur were cornflower blue,
my childhood’s favorite waxen color.
But I am writing to forget the smell of crayons.
I am writing because my words are scabs
doing work on the cheap while Poetry shouts
and jabs its signs at air, wanting something
more than tired father woe. The scabs
have nothing else to say but this: My dad is dead,
my dad is dead, and I don’t dream or even sense him
in his favorite songs. I can’t project my grief
to make him seem alive in Jacob’s ladders.

What did I expect? I dropped his church
in a canyon south of Lehi. Red rock. So what
if I fed him ice cream in a busy parking lot, drove him
restless up to witness Mount Timpanogos
one more time while listening to LDS radio broadcast
hushed tones of patriarchs and tender wives
in interview selling the dream
of eternal benevolent fathers. It almost felt true.
I’ve no pendant of his thumbprint on my throat.
I only have his hands. And feet. Huge chin. Square cheeks.
I passed them on to children, as will they. Eternally.

It doesn’t matter. Everything you have,
he proudly told me once, you’ve done on your own.
Or something like that. A backwards compliment.
Another way to leave me nothing but myself.
Another way to slap the back of his own painful honesty,
polish this facet of his charming self-loathing:
how great I turned out without him. His absence:
the great hand that rolled, coiled, fired and filled me.
This cracked pot can’t hold him anymore.


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