What he thought belly down, when I was 8 years old
What he thought belly down, face down on the beige speckled tile floor, new wax, drill holes where desks had been anchored. Of the shield-thick hovering air. He could be a ribbon of wax, a thin trail of caulk. Something left over above his breath and heart sounds he could hear waiting like a hymn and pipe organs’ stop just before release.
What he thought belly down, face down on the ice sliding between cars toward the gutter. Of the rifle smug and steady at his forehead and jittery sawed-off rushing his wife for her wedding rings. Of the streetlight shadow. The hydrant hunched in the snow-crusted grass. The salted walk. His little girl mid-step on the porch and the wrought iron storm door and front door ajar.
When I was 8 years old I thought my father was a monster.
When I was 8 years old I thought my father could fly.
When I was 8 years old I thought my father was a dark room
In a dark house with walls of eyes and teeth and banisters of thick rough skin.
The rooms around him were also monsters and they were tall
As telephone poles with flesh of kerosene and black fire.
Their arms were always open and they surrounded my father,
Keeping him warm for as long as he chose to stand on the earth
Copyright © 2021 by Duriel E. Harris. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 8, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.