Genealogy of the Fall
Mom and Dad gathered us at the edge
of forest where we played house,
picked plucked leaves of grass, sieved
dirt through our hands. We breathed
deeply; fresh pine air sweet like
the broken boy
watching Douglas Fir
in the kitchen.
Suppose that we are the needles
connected to the tree—slowly browning and falling
to forest floor. Now we are fiddleheads curled so tight,
rising from the duff.
We are petrichor—a home
created just for us in the mud puddles,
not interlaced with the roots that kept us
grounded. We are flying. We plant
in the same soil. But suppose
a gust blew us past our plot.
Gathered at the edge of the forest
muted and monotone under the mossgilded hemlock
Papa set my piano on fire, the strings
whip the flames as Ivory
mourns its second death. A first love
ablaze. A boy in lipstick and red heels,
whose colors are to be charred black;
call it Nocturne in bruised black flats
with a righteous choice and it only took a fire,
the disappearance of lipstick. The death
of starlit music. He prays
to fall among the duff.
Revelations or North of Phoenix
She has reinvented your world at least twice
At five she told you to pray for the ocean;
you became a Christian.
At fourteen she told you that God wasn’t shit.
You sunk six years into the crimson stitches
of the church pew
for the revelation:
you don’t know what to believe.
Today, four generations of women sit at the table:
Helen (the guardian of family history), Verna (the painter and romantic),
Vicky (the gardener), Mary (the nurse),
Tiffany (who makes sure your father doesn’t fuck up),
Your sister (the activist – reason for this gathering).
“Somewhere on cedar planked
park bench, two men have committed
a crime against God and themselves”
Fifty-two minutes ago,
she walked herself
down the aisle
treble clefs gilding
her ears, great-
grandmother’s lace dress,
You wipe tears streaming from your left cheek and meekly raise a toast,
“To her, for creating footsteps for me to walk in.”
It takes six years for you to realize you don’t know what you believe;
one day to realize they don’t believe in you.
Your father, inspired, stands for his second toast:
“Hallelujah, a 2015 vintage port.”
When they finally fished the gold earring out of the sink, clef’s coils constricted
curling around his collar. She had loved them, but
after he pushed her down eleven steps,
she loved herself enough to jump out the window.
Most of these people will not be at your wedding day
but they still come over and half-heartedly compliment
your black and white floral suit which screams
the redyellowpurple you brought into your life
the day you left.
He doesn’t get a final word.
The only witness you need is your sister,
who taught you to fight
with wings on fire.