Cold turquoise, a rumor of dawn. I shiver on the porch steps, drag long and hard on my smoke. I gave the bedroom a try but couldn't settle. In the living room, I thumbed through a photo album till I found you diving
off the Ocmulgee bridge, your body a perfect, curved machete of flesh scything the sky. Years later, the river shallow enough to wade, you carried me to a sandbar isle where I sat in reeds, cracking mussels.
The bed is too short. In the painting over the headboard, mynah birds stared at me, blank as scared children. So I came out here where I can hope something makes sense, where I can sort through the shells of my exile.
Father, why does growing up take such a little while? One day I read your gift, a dog-eared Treasure Island, the next your first letter. It skipped what would never be explained: a rift, a suicide, what happened. Now I have
many letters and all your tears -- things have really been piling up. When I was six, telling a story in my perambulatory way, I wandered off the end of the dock and vanished through a longboat's rotted hull.
The sudden chill, the grasp of weeds at my feet, the choke of dirty water and its thrill in my throat. In that veil I see you diving still, searching me out and clutching my thin limbs, hauling me sputtering to the shore.
Nothing makes sense anymore -- my life, your life, or this home where somehow I'm a guest. I don't know how to tell you any of this. Now I'm inside, now I'm listening by your door. Outside, the sky grows an impossible pearl.
An earlier version of this poem appeared in the journal Able Muse, where it was a finalist for the Write Prize. Copyright 2012 by Joshua Lavender.