My Father as Weather Formation
Sometimes when a man moves his mouth, breath
comes out, breath that freezes in the prickly air,
only breath, no sounds. Like my father driving us
to the woods: me, baby sister, and mother, squeezed
beside him, shivering on the seat. Sometimes I look
and look at his whip-like body, his hooded eyes
that say to me he’s half-lizard, his transformation
incomplete. I tell my sister, he talks in the language
of smoke. My mother whispers, chestnut, fir,
mirabelle while my father veers from tree to tree.
He presses his hand to the bark, rips a leaf, scribbles,
picks a thread from his tweed coat (its sleeve
scours my cheek, becomes burlap in memory),
bites a spotted plum in half, exposing the stone that glistens
like the pig hearts I saw, on tiptoe, at the butchery.
Then his whims enslave him. He stuffs his valise
with jars and papers, flees to the city. Mother blames
his fever, says he’ll die. I dream he eats the char-
woman’s lye to poison himself clean, soft
jellyfish man answering his gloom. Man of fidgets
and glances, soon to appear in the clouds as beasts
for me to name, and fall on his woods like snow.