The face God made after
God mastered faces:
Your nose, straight and strong,
the porcelain, fine-grained skin.
The pitch-dark eyebrows
thinly arched over cobalt eyes;
most of all, those depthless eyes,
rimmed with a boy’s long lashes.
The coal-black hair cropped short,
inclined toward unruliness.
Your bed head.
The soft lay of your land.
The old flannel shirt,
The sweetness of your embouchure.
How you made me laugh:
The night you swore you saw Jesus
in a plate of spaghetti; the morning
I happened upon a banana dressed
in the miniature black cowboy hat
and red kerchief you found at
The native intelligence that could
not afford college. How you read —
voraciously, indiscriminately — library books scattered:
Schrodinger’s cat, battlefield injuries, New Yorker cartoons.
Your mashed potatoes,
infused with butter and whole milk,
beaten smooth and creamy.
The voluptuous tastes of
your intemperate nature.
The handsome heedless father
you adored who
drank himself to death,
loosing your longing into the world,
where it found me.
Your tenderness. The sodden
hummingbird you untangled
from damp morning grass and
rushed to a wildlife rehabilitator.
How you cried when the cat died.
The cup you threw at me
when you were angry.
Because you had a right to be.
The tenacity of your affection.
The mother who loved
your feckless brother better.
Your stubborn attachment to
the ex who became her proxy;
how you answered when she called.
The sleeping in, the
going out; the indolent
teenager you never outgrew.
The vexing indifference of
your undisciplined form.
Your disregard for order:
the dirty kitchen; the piled papers.
How the chaos of inattention
littered our home
and scattered me.
A certain coarseness;
a paucity of regret.
How you fought — when you fought —
small and dirty.
The meanness in your suffering.
Your failure to distinguish
those worthy of your
trust from those not.
Your quenchless need for approval,
obsequious and alert to displeasure.
How you stayed,
when you shouldn’t have.
How you left, finally.
I feel like you have dared to share yourself naked. And then I see bits of myself in your nakedness. And I start to be embarrassed. Then I am not.
That’s a fine compliment, Rafiki. Thank you.
You are a very talented writer Cate! This poem brings so many emotions to the surface, and you are able to describe snapshots of meaningful moments, precious memories that come to life as they are illumined by your words. Congratulations!
Thank you, Amira, for your kind attention and encouragement of my work as I explore new forms and content. Very glad you enjoyed this piece!