Mermaid 4

by Scott Creley

My father is a broken gunslinger,
his hands bunched into knots
that came from working too hard and fast,
as a soldier, as a hired gun,
half a world away from here.

In the white of his left eye,
there is a tiny comet of blood.
A shattered capillary that hovers forever
just beyond the field of
broken blue ice that is his iris.

This blood star
blazes back in the dishwater light
of early morning
while he draws himself up
to his full height and grips
the edge of the countertop —

His face is filled
with the passages and furrows
that dreams carve
on their way out of the body.
His crow’s feet are the fine webs
of glass freshly broken.

The spiraling torn edge
across his left cheek
was left by a stepbrother
who would never love him
and told him so while wearing his class ring.

The permanent darkness in the hollows
around his eyes are the tattoos
of affairs and addictions.
A litany of guilt drawn into
the bruised leavings of insomnia.

Propping himself against that counter top,
waiting for the coffee,
my father is somewhere else —
He is in the place that ruptures blood vessels,
that carves lines into wooden faces.
He is the last soldier alive on a beach,
a reservist in the south pacific,
the sole survivor,
ankle deep in scarlet water.
Each sigh makes his chest visible
between the lapels of his cotton bathrobe.
it is a Rosetta Stone for the translation of pain –
A language made up of the body
trying to survive the mind.

Each scar, each line of wear,
is a sentence in the prophecy
of a man who does not yet know
that his ear will be amputated in six months,
that he will bury his mother in three.

They are the story of a life grown too heavy,
a weight still bearing him down

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