Today, if there is anything
You can give me, give me my father, 
His forearms strong as wood, the vowels
Climbing the fine column of his throat.
Even the words he held in till they were thin
As soap.  Give me his breath, shrouding him
Like a mountain while he sleeps.

If you lay it before me, I will climb it
Grabbing onto shrubs the steep way up
To where a chimney spits whole notes
Into the frozen blue air.
Give me a table with smoked trout
And scotch on ice.  A pipe warm
As an egg at his breast.

                                             And if not this,
Give me what you can.  If it is a house, 
I want it.  Even the kind I’ve been
Ashamed for.  Linens stitched from sacks.
Something frying in pig fat on the stove.  
Give me my great-grand and her coffee-can
Spittoon.   Money wrapped in rags

And pinned to her blouse.  Give me
The wide rows she walks, hand on a stick, 
Shadow spread across the soil like ash.
Give me the long path disappearing into sun. 
What burned but that she swallowed.
What burned from doing without.  Give me
The words spat from a car on the road.  

Today is bright but cold.  I am safe
In my clean white walls.  Loss looks in
My door and passes. How much more
Will we bury in the earth?  How much
In this dark where the earth floats?

Tracy K. Smith

Issue 17 • Spring 2016