The Alphabet, for Naima
A is for almost, arriving, my father’s death.
B is for bear, which he does and does not do.
C is for care and critics and leaving them to their caskets.
D is for damn, which your father does not give but must.
E, for empire—a thing to impale, kill, break
Breach. F is for farther along we’ll understand why
Fire greets us at every door and we’ve lost our way
In the sky. Now where, where should we turn?
G is for good, the shy speechless sound of fruit
Falling from its tree. Me, you, there in the woods
Watching the pines shatter shadow in the light
Wind. H is for horses in the high cotton,
The crack in their hooves carrying your grandfather
And your grandfather’s grandfather down the hill
Until two stomps on the barn floor orphans them
Again, dust, dust. I is for in, as in in the blood we bear
All sorts of madness but bear, bear we must.
J is for jaundiced, which you never were.
K is for keep. Keep your wilderness wild, your caves neat.
L is lift and lymph, the node they cut
From beneath your grandfather’s arm.
M is for misery, which turns and breaks in
Though I wish it would not. Leaf
Leaning on a pond. Blood on a sock.
N is for nature and nearly and how I’ve come
To love; nearly, nearly I come to you, my falcon
Hood pulled tight; my talons tucked; Lord,
Let me not touch. O is for out and the owl
You say sits on your nose. P is for please
As in “Please, son, don’t visit me”
And yet I visited and did not please, and he would not
Touch your leaf, afraid his rot would
Make the petals fall. A lovely love—
No, not at all. Q is for quince, its yellow-breasted
Bell knocking against my father’s deathbed
Window, the light, the light too on his dying
Bed, what you opened your mouth to and tried
To swallow. R is for road where we lay,
Sometimes, because we wish not to exist
And wish and wish and wish. And must.
S is for…