Upon Never Meeting My Father
My father holds quartz in his hand, Whittle it sharp enough, you could cut your
Achilles. He snickers & I watch with wet eyes, closed, humid musk permeates
the horizontal of my body laying among dewy corn, knees & wrists & thighs
still & silent as—The dead, he says, flip open their eyelids in their coffins to chuck
damnation back at the living. He flicks his fingers into my face quick, quicker,
as if he’s casting a spell; I do not move, do not flinch. He does not know
which of us is the dead in this equation. I have no heart to tell him.
He combs my hair with thumbs; he combs my hair with scents of a hundred
boxelder bugs just before dawn; he combs my hair with pliers, pulls out
mattes of hair, follicles like onion bulbs says, Your grandmother Petra lost her two
front teeth at 37, turns from me & I know his back means we are lineage in
pieces. I run my tongue over grooves of a smile, hidden between closed lips.
Below the lip of the forest, he holds my hand, lifts me over the bramble, lets
the thorns slice & tear at my ankles & shins. Blood binds you, his snort echoes
with the sheep grunts & exhaust pipes from the old highway, & he licks his
knuckles as if the earth sticks like sinew between his incisors, & I pray
to the June bugs in July he doesn’t know what he’s saying, doesn’t understand
geometry & magic & a spinal cord in quaver of a cell it never knows a cell in
tonal scrape & doesn’t know how limbs of a mulberry tree are never meant
to hug his daughter’s flesh to sleep, how milk & blood sour in all this heat.
Felicia Zamora is the author of six books of poetry including, I Always Carry My Bones, winner of the 2020 Iowa Poetry Prize forthcoming in 2021, Body of Render, winner of the 2018 Benjamin Saltman Award from Red Hen Press (2020), and Of Form & Gather, winner of the 2016 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize (2017). Her poems appear in Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day,
American Poetry Review, Boston Review online, Georgia Review, Missouri Review Poem-of-the-Week, Orion, The Nation, and others. She is an assistant professor of poetry at the University of Cincinnati and the associate poetry editor for Colorado Review.