THE INEFFICIENCY OF BURNING

April 7, 2015

Sometimes we burn so cleanly there is nothing left.
         —Larry Levis

I got so riled up with my father once when
he grew jealous of mom for staying out too late
that I said Fuck off under my breath. I knew
he heard me as soon as his shoes squeaked
across the tile. He didn’t question me
about it because I had smelled perfume again
on his Air Force uniform soon as he cracked
the door, because he saw Desdemona’s ghost
rise up from the pyramid of dirty dishes.
I was fourteen with nothing to lose. Had it come
to blows I would’ve grabbed the largest knife.

I never told him how close he came to being buried,
or how simple it would’ve been to hike
up those stairs afterward & cram for a quiz.

At night, while most people are sleeping,
I stand on 6th Street Bridge & stare at the Allegheny.
Looking down at this body of water makes
me feel still like the tiara dangling off the crescent.
In Florida, the water always moves
to afflicted men who’ve dreamt of sizzling coals.
In Florida, a place that I may never set
foot on again, my parents will reach
a settlement agreement the week I’ll be married.
If you believe the heart is constantly
neglected, a crystal egg, now, that has spiders
crawling all over the cracks, which is centered
on a mantle beside the Bible, you can hear its cry—
as when the lazy bones of communication are scooped
up with an album cover, until at last the top layer
of cake has settled to the bottom of The Gulf,
or until even the flame engulfing the coal
& tarnished wedding band has become a climate
of caution—& once the moon slips out between
daylight’s faded curtain, you expect
the streetlamp’s beam to gasp
at all those cobwebs barricading
the mortal threshold of a vow.

I’m on a bridge watching
the ferry part my reflection.

For the longest, I believed
my father was a thief who hocked
Hera’s golden sandals for whiskey,
but he was just a man who thought
he could use excuses as fire-barrier gel
that would prevent even the hairs
on his body from being singed.

He’s not dead, but I keep the ashes
of our relationship stored
inside a bottle of Chivas Regal.
From here on out, I’ll drink
a shot every year on his birthday
as a reminder that even Disharmony
is cause for celebration.