By Chris Haven
Clickingly he walked as a child
Down the winding farm road,
Lined with a God-blank vision.
He dug a scattering of holes
In the ground he pronounced tree.
Those trees ticked up through their eyelet
In the sky and flecked the ground
With sweet black walnuts. Pail-sprinkled,
Cream and sugar, ice and salt he cranked.
His arms grown strong and muscle-pure.
When he finally went to town he took
A deck of cards and a country grin,
Broken-toothed and a tongue set
Firm, indented on the roof of his mouth,
Meat uncured and hard to harvest.
Then it was time to forget trees,
Wrestle the broken-downest car
That ever drove a county lane.
Patch kit in the trunk. He learned to fix,
Tricks he tried to use later on me.
Now the trees are too old to give
And the sky is dark with fathers.
I have a crease in my mouth same as his.
He puts a hand on my shoulder,
Tells me he’s tired of my elegies.
He never told me about his trees
That didn’t last, only the strong ones
He shook from his pocket. I wonder
How I can tell this father from another.
If I’ll know the touch of the gambler’s hand.
At the celebration dinner,
We wait for something holy to be said.
The years place another ring on the logs,
Wrinkled casts. We trust there’s a hush
Inside. Split them and they shine.
The table is spread with fried chicken.
Black walnut ice cream waits in the kitchen.
Piled with the after-sleep to come.
One chair left open for these fathers,
These center-cut men who one day
Will fall like shovels from the sky.
Chris Haven has recent or forthcoming poetry in Cincinnati Review, Mid-American Review, Colorado Review, Pleiades, and Beloit Poetry Review. He teaches creative writing at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.