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Vita: Minnesota Fall

Because my father told me, No
I pitched my will against the blow
Of his flint mind and angry heart.
Almost four, I began the art
Of silence and of cussedness.

When I was seven, with a curse
And a kindling-stick he whacked my bum
Till my pants flushed with a wet flame.
The sun chilled, leaves hung dumb.
I called out. No one came.

Because my mother told me Yes
Before I read them in a book
I guessed her reasons by her look,
And soon I learned that there were rules
Older than rocks, not taught in schools.

The jacaranda bloomed: a blue shout,
Louder each year, till I got out
And took to wandering, wanting to fill
My days with words, and work of hands.
Now, as I sense my slide downhill,

Half-finished projects clutter my desk:
A bricolage of clips and bands.
Fall gives off a peculiar musk;
Leaf-rot mixed with the stink of coons
And turkeys: mildewed afternoons.

The days get stranger: two friends die,
One in his garden, one in bed.
Smelling of pee, our fathers lie
Staring at nothing, or coil up
In a tight ball over a coffee-cup.

All things have their tides and reasons:
People and trees, and these queer seasons
Between two countries where I’m home
Nowhere and everywhere. As I turn
Gripping my hammer in my palm,

To patch the familiar roof and walls
Of my house, of my self, what’s gone
Seems chaff in the wind. I’m on my own:
One with the coons and, I suppose,
With turkeys, and the browning rose.

Be that as it may, night spreads.
It spreads fast. I hurry outdoors
And shift my ladder along the wall.
Testing each rung, I begin my climb
Through deep doorways between the stars.