A Father's Parting Words to a Young Daughter
Just beyond the alders sun sprinkles the trail warming layers of brown-eyed leaves,
heating thin dew until it rises,
steaming like a hot bath in a winter room.
Here the roots of maple run like veins beneath our feet,
sometimes surfacing, sometimes burying themselves
deep in the skin of earth.
I am explaining to you the meaning of words
like divorce and custody
and transfers across states.
You grab at wet branches,
pulling them to you until they spring back
like small transgressions,
as droplets attach themselves to my cheeks.
My words drip past your understanding.
They are catalogued under mine and yours, hers and his.
You slide behind a broad oak fingering its bark,
chipping hard truths from its face.
Half concealed by its knotted trunk your milky hair
entangles the tree like that of Barbies jumbled in cartons.
I am reminded of the stories of trolls and old witches
and remember your questioning.
But there are no villains in our story
and you refuse to listen to sad endings.
The stream rushes past, restless in its course,
gathering up its treasures, pooling its resources.
You are the freckled leaf carried
along its swells into a larger world
of waves and storms and unsettling compromises.
I am the pale reflection fading with each ripple.
We turn direction back to the road.
Distant clouds shape themselves into cut stone,
then separate, shattered by the jagged mountain.
Like reluctant signatures on cold pages
we do not want to end this visit.
We speak of old friends, new friends,
and Christmas's with gingerbread houses.
You scatter memories like bread crumbs
and I search for pebbles to drop behind you.
First Place Cat. # 11
FSPA State Contest 1998
Florida State Poetry Association Anthology