Some mornings, the cloudssettle rooftop low, holding us in placelike a specimen slide.
I spend my dayswondering how a hammer weighs the handthat holds it,
or how the starlings apronthe stoplights at Alcatrazand Adeline.
A glassworker told me oncethat she could tell by the scarswho bandages their fingers
and who kisses closedthe wounds. I don’t know howmy father woke
hours before sunriseeach morning and worked until long past sunset.Sleep was a country [End Page 208]
to retire to, an Ecuador.I live where the light is thin, and clothes uslike linen.
In the hills above town,a black snake scrawls across the pathlike a signature.
I still have countriesleft to discover, and ballets of workfor my hands to learn. [End Page 209]
She was a girl, but more. More muscle, more heat,more throat. In her hands,
boys turned to birds,and birds lost their wings. You could follow her home
by the trail of wings. They said her soul was thinas an arrow and twice
as sharp. Boys wrote hersongs full of lyrics like You make my heart
a Belgium when it ought to be a France, orI’d eat a jar of rattlers
if you said you’d bemy girl. One boy played the cello till he sawed
through the strings. Another wrote sonnets till his fingersbroke. We’d have ruined
ourselves if she’d let us.Because she was a girl, but closer. Her breath [End Page 210]
felt closer, her voice sounded closer. At night,when the dark lost
the last of its velvet,we thought of her, and we all grew closer. [End Page 211]
Sonnet with Horses Where the Turn Should Be
I was afraid of my father. Each night,he came home from work, set a Pielson the desk, and paid bills as the dog sleptunder his feet. My father—who never
hit me, nor ever raised his voice to memore than once or twice, who never spared meany affection—I feared him the wayI feared horses: their long muscles moving
like unsheathed swords, their eyes silver dollar–sized wells of darkness. Something noble inthe face of a horse, Larry Levis wrote,made it “incapable of treachery.”
My father had the look of a horse workedyears too long, laboring not to falter. [End Page 212]
Ryan Teitman is the author of the poetry collection Litany for the City. His poems have appeared in Pleiades, Gulf Coast, and Ninth Letter. His awards include a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University.