Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2021  Vol. 20  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Our Daily Ration
The moon is brighter since the barn burned.
—Matsuo Bashō

Dad drifts through his clouds of surrounding
concerns. I’m doomed, he says to his phone. I laugh to remind him

the percussion of astonishment. To him I know everything

is abundant repetition. Photos of family, shells,
bread, an old hat and stopped
watch lawn his dresser. His drawers are furred

with paper towels folded in thirds between each black globe
of rolled sock. Too much

and less. A man storing escape.

I slice celery for the Crock-Pot. Sigh in near perfect pitch
and my articulations verge on defiance.

I am now only chopping up silence, moving the small
pieces into a bowl. There is no wind
against my mouth. On the phone my father murmured, What do I need

with this life? It is impossible to better
the words he rehearses. Could he hear me pretend?

I section each carrot on the diagonal. Peel the crisp white coat
from the garlic. Onion. Its transparent wings,
purple tears. I no longer cry, despite minimal inseparable hiding places.

I wipe down the cutting board.
Residue. Heat a spill of broth. My hands, my hands shape another
nourishment as if reason is eased by the slightest touch.

Nothing I can stop. The moon climbs the junipers
to look at me. White and empty. I calculate where Dad is

in this disease by what he blames. So many chances to tilt. Windows,
appetite. I bone fat away, drop in the cubed meat. Each day returns

with the thin exact blade

of my father’s voice. What has been cut
from what he had yesterday. I stir the soup with a pine spoon. A breeze rivers

this desert from the east.
Because I know my father I know my father

is smiling and this is wrong. He puts the smile
to his mouth. Mountain sky. Adobe
holds its ordinary heat. I scratch scum from the still surface of the pot.

I taste the stock and realize the assumption
of apology. He pinches the closest word

and drops it into the phone. I swallow. Hello, I say again.

I am your oldest. I let that simmer. I don’t understand
what his ear needs. What the mouth gives.
Leave it be, he repeats when he can’t remember the source

of his thought. The sky is ceremonial.
His lips hold his own forgiveness. I stand at the stove in reveries. Frontal tangle,

nerve. Not grief,
but autumn. Not grief but what speech has made me

to defend. The hesitation stretches
its chant. The hesitation reaches
with an upper and lower. Everything I hear now overlaps. Points of time

the size of faint recollections, and these variations evolve
tender, quiet. Tomorrow he may sound

better. I introduce a final seasoning. Strew the meat
to ribbons. Soup at last. Soup always better the next day.

Here is a spoon. I made this.
Let’s sit on each side of the table.

Long ago I had a father; the familiar
was beginning. Later much later a prayer, a bowl.  

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