Today I touched my father’s tombstone
with the flat of my hand, as if he were merely
feverish and not dead, not underground
here in the Sequatchie River Valley.
I picture him back home at the kitchen table,
trying to hear a Benny Goodman record
through thick headphones, leaning forward,
nursing a Stroh’s and a travel magazine
or standing at the stove, stirring a saucepan,
heating up new maple butter to pour out
on the snow in pretzel-shaped candy,
a Lucky Strike dangling from his lips.
I picture him stumbling down the stairs
drunk, cursing in sign language, mean,
smashing things at the workbench,
breaking windows with his hammer.
I see him throwing his keys at my mother’s apron,
firing off a rifle, pocking the fridge. I see
his head in the back of a disappearing squad car
as my mother clings to the doorframe…
For years there was small news of him:
the clocks he fixed, a new wife, an address
somewhere in California. Then the checks arrived,
federal, the death benefit received.
Now I am sixty. Odd, how blood is thicker
than memory. After months of searching, I find him.
I come to this field to hear the summer scrum
of a mower in the distance, to brush the cuttings away.
Pia Taavila-B0rsheim‘s recent work has appeared in Threepenny Review, Wordgathering, 32 Poems, Measure, storySouth, Birmingham Poetry Review, The Bear River Review and The Southern Review, among others. Her thirty years’ collected poems, Moon on the Meadow, was published by Gallaudet University Press in 2008; a chapbook, Two Winters, was released by Finishing Line Press in 2011.