I cannot forget the sugar on the table.
The hand that spilled it was not that of
my usual father, three layers of clothes
for a wind he felt from hallway to kitchen,
the brightest room though the lightbulbs
The sugar like bleached anthills of ground teeth.
It seemed to issue from open wounds in his palms.
Each day, more of Father granulated, the injury spread
like dye through cotton, staining all the wash,
condemning the house.
The gas jets on the stove shoot a blue spear
that passes my cheek like air. I stir
and the sugar dissolves, the coffee giving no evidence
that it has been sweetened and I will not taste it
to find out, my father raised to my lips, the toast burnt,
the breakfast ruined.
Neither he nor I will move from the shrine
of Mother’s photo. We begin to understand
the limits of love’s power. And as we do,
we have to redefine God; he is not love at all.
He is longing.
He is what he became those three days
that one third of himself was dead.
Thylias Moss, "Spilled Sugar" from At Redbones. Copyright © 1990 by Thylias Moss. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of the Cleveland State University Poetry Center, www.csupoetrycenter.com.