portion of the artwork for Rachel Wiley's poetry

Conversations with My Father in a Dunk Tank
Rachel Wiley

When you met my mother
was she all the best parts of the soil
and all the brightest spots in the sky?
Did she kiss from you the ember warm ashes of fires long burnt out?
Do you remember when your love turned attic trapped bird
and started slamming its own feathers out against the windows
wild eyed and desperate?

She warned me to run from men with treble clef heart lines
but someone went and stole the guts
from the player piano in my chest
now it’s just
a piano
I have to make up the songs
work the pedals on my own
sometimes when my toes don’t quite touch
I rent the space to a boy with longer legs
and nimble fingers
he can read sheet music, Dad
it fills my mouth with buck shot music notes
He smells like first love
I would run through myself to get away
but I am no runner.

The empty refrigerator in my stomach
wants to know where Florida is
and if we are there yet
if when we get there
we will find all of the runaway fathers
living under dining room table forts
sitting on thrones of unmailed birthday cards.
We never changed our number, Dad.

It still rings to the same black wall mounted telephone
that hung in the last house we all lived in together.
It was sole witness when the roof above the kitchen fell in on Mom.
Did you hear about that?
Did you worry?
I bet you didn’t know that the crane that came to fix it
rolled right over the parsley patch I tended to.
I have never been very good with plants.
When I was the same age you and she were in the end
I moved out of a garden meant to grow nice Christian girls
into good Christian housewives.
I walked off one day with no shoes
the taste of glass and feathers heavy in my mouth.
I understand a few things about leaving now, Dad.

I don’t remember you going
only the way Mom started saying “father” thru her jawbone
until we stopped asking where you
or Florida were anymore.
I learned how to walk in eggshell roller skates
with Janis Joplin giving her heart away
shaking the windows like a low flying airplane
and I grew up
looking a whole lot
like nobody in particular.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 38 | Fall 2012