by Deborah Dombrowski
~For my father at 85
The years have swallowed my possibilities yet I carry
your unfed hunger fierce and clanging in my body—
it rushes along my spine, persistent as the river
that carved the canyon below. Burnt sugar sifts
from the ponderosa that hold the edge steady
and their scent reminds me of cooking caramel —
how you and I would wait for the sugar to darken
to copper and bring it right up to the verge of burning—
because we knew that timing is all.
Your fierceness hides in my bones and I still dream
of a flight two thousand feet above the earth,
the Cessna with a skim of ice along its wings,
your voice hushed and urgent as you spoke to ground control.
Now, you have grown patient and grateful and some days
you spend an hour lining the sill with sunflower seeds.
When you roll your chair back into shadow,
chickadees come to teeter and tip along the ledge
and you tilt your head in a faint echo of their query.
Mornings you wake surprised by another day and a new sky—
sun washes your cheekbones as you nudge the shells
into a speckled path and I notice your eyes have faded to gold.
Tell me: is this the way it goes—as the hours dwindle
do we lean in towards revelation and throw fuel
on the fire even as it stutters and burns more slowly?
Heat gives way to ash and wood that won’t catch
but lingers, singed and charred, marked by a sojourn
so close to our longing, so far from the blue above.