Father Poems – Stephanie Yue Duhem
June 20, 2021
Smudging the newsprint
like the half-print of a hoof in the snow
with my forefinger, I am asking him
to trace the ideograms as far back as they go.
But he is a poor hunter—I know that now.
He is poor at many things.
Once, he called my bruises to their names.
As if he could name the world to its knees.
With a daub of bister or a pat of wax, he
used to show some dexterity. Some pull to form.
If his hand angled like a palette knife
beneath our roof—that was just the slant
of truth. The arc of justice.
I too pulled to form, some ultimate geometry
whose law was to bend
as far back as the line allowed. Then
curving like a shaving of cedar,
shivering in my own warm breath like a fern,
I proved his sternness a practice, an espalier.
How could I not forgive him? I do. I must.
Given the powder blue branching in his wrist.
His heavied brow,
his diminished gift.
Understand—he is a dovecote in disrepair,
housing the ghosts of minor masteries.
I no longer plea for minor mercies
but advance them, slowly,
like feathery pages in an heirloom dictionary.
after Lucille Clifton
architect of syncretic utopias
where the hagia sophia
and a space needle
into a cola-dark sky.
are the princesses who rule there.
praise their racelessness.
praise their seriatim smiles.
praise their espalier ballgowns
stitched with a number two.
praise how they flick
fubsy fingers and edict.
praise how they say baba
draw me a new heaven or baba
draw me anew again.
then praise praise how he does it.