My Father Was a Beekeeper

I always knew my father was allergic to bees
but it wasn’t until his obituary
I learned he was once a beekeeper.

In those days, I hear, he prayed
to his veil– only to re-emerge, hours later,
having danced with God
under every umber swarm.

He was a gifted storyteller
but it wasn’t until his stroke
at seventy-four made me listen,
when his mouth betrayed his brain.

In his final years he would repeat,
the end of bees is the end of man.
So, heaven in the soft petals
scattered in the grass.

Young violets lined his coffin.
All I wanted was to listen

to stories he told before,
details I had forgotten.

Around the cemetery,
bees still glissando

through gardens not unlike the ones
he dug into his blackened fingernails–

honey and sweat, story-
pollinated requiems, harmonies

heard in bountiful
fields of bloodroot.

 

(originally published in Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal – Spring 2016)

*Nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology

Dog on the Patio

Whenever I let the dog out
onto our small back patio
on sunny afternoons
and he lays on familiar brick

scratching his ears,
nose curious and wandering,
I remember my father

who, in the endless days of retirement,
learned the lawn better
than his calloused palms:

every humpbacked tree and drooping limb,
every snake and gopher hole,
every new and fallen anthill,
every cobweb on the lamppost,

where to find toads after rain,
how to catch them–

when he did not strive to create utopia
by chiseling trees into magazine models,

I often found him on a patch
of freshly-mown grass,
scratching his smoky, sun-basked beard,

waiting for the wind to speak,
to say more to him than I ever did.

 

(originally published in Black Elephant Lit, Spring 2016)

Happy Hour Whiskey

I don’t think my dad would be proud of me
writing poems on bar napkins
after that fifth happy hour whiskey.

This is how I want it: to be disengaged
by the time my uniform cuffs roll
to my eyes in stupor to avoid the

solemn eyes of ancestors in the sky.
Transparent Mufasas and steely voices
judge me like America judges Kardashians.

The reality is you can rewind the DV tape
back to the beginning tomorrow and show me
the footage of my stumbling into the driver’s seat.

The cosmos roll in their graves.
Meanwhile I am the last child
who can cast the line onward–

past, present, future.
A syzygy from birth.
The headlights wane.

 

(originally published in Jawline Review, Spring 2016)

Because I Never Listened to Your Stories

Thirty-five years and fingernails
darken, blacken from walnuts
and the cracks of hammers, the coming
of dawn, clouds wrapped in thunder–

the fruiting spire, the pear-toned
light, the front lawn fire, charcoal
grass, green peels ripening– ripe–
soft–

red Helix stagnant, lonesome, remembering
the wet-leather thunderstorm days
cruisin’ seventy,
the human box of organs and history
holding rubber handles
treaded like hieroglyphics–

interpret me. Listen.

These are the words on the bathroom stall
fingernail-scratched and ignored

What Will You Remember?

Not the stories told in tones softer than television

 

(originally published in NEAT., Issue 7)