My father fists a dime with his
knotty fingers in a rough palm,
goading us to unclench them.
“Try harder,” he says and laughs
at our vain, jerking efforts to bend
back the muscular fingers
of his sailor hands, callused
by manila lines and practiced
in all-night poker games.
He peels an apple, surgeon-like,
paring away deep red skin,
slicing the bare white in half,
cutting out the ovary: core and seeds.
He offers slices on the knife blade,
daring us to eat off the sharp edge.
We take the fruit, like communion
into our unkissed mouths, open in small O’s.
Our innocence tested, we trust him
never to hurt us, and the blade, never to cut.
The irritation of our mother’s fear
in milky gray oyster flesh—
It begins like this, grain of sand,
a darkness in the eye,
the stain of your lover’s last kiss.
It grows without your knowing,
insidious pearl, blind spot.
Say the sun shines too hot, the air
is poison, the world has lost reason,
aliens have finally landed and dance
microscopic on the cells in your breast.
Blame the beast of resignation,
tiny sloth, round and fat
rolling marble-like to perfection
in bodies where no space is safe.
Say yes to the lockjaw of heart’s desire,
take the kitchen knife to the temple
where men have worshipped.
Slice it out.
* * *