Of the Father
            God is exalted in his power. Who is a teacher like him?—Job 36:22


I

“Yet in My Flesh I Will See”

Wet cigar end of August, the hot
a sick fat ghost in the kitchen
where my brothers, mother, I sweat
and wait. Paul cracks the egg
too loud for our father on the phone

and he explodes, tongue all battle
axe, eyes snorting warhorse,
yells for quiet in his home
when his now is a work call.
We straighten into pikes,
phalanx to gut his cavalry
until mom, chewing back brine,

screams us all out into night. I fury
through the backyard, as angry
as he who so easy to anger.
I kick a ball into chokecherry
trees, pound down our black top
to the garage, where a new pane
of glass winks from the door.

I throw a forearm shiver into the sheet,
from my elbow to my shoulder.

Oh, the way the glass gives
and keeps giving, trilling, slicing
as it falls onto old bikes in the dark,
with such a sweet and simple hate.
My elbow, the flesh, meat and marrow,
opens to the bone, an eye, a mouth,
a surge of black and red boots.

What did you do? Jon asks, looks
at my arm and then runs to my dad
and shoves him. Dad knocks him
to the mulch, tells me to get into the car,
packed with all my stuff.

We wait
five hours in the ER for the two layers
of 47 sutures. It is four AM when,
three hours before he will weep
on the sidewalk outside the dorm
and say I’m so sorry I fucked this up,
we check in, bandaged, still so stinging

to the touch, to the hotel a block
away from my first day of college,
looking down into the chestnut
of his business cut, that I am inches,
as if suddenly, taller than he.


II

“Out of the Whirlwind”

Last night, I pulsed through anger, grabbed
my daughter and struck her. Her cheek, a tap

of fingers really, bruises there not there, which I can’t
take back before leaving her to the darkness of her room.

Then I moved through sadness at what she’d done,
wept to my wife that I’d lost the little girl

of Purple Blankie, of Biddy Baby, who once ran at me
for sweet tackles in the dry California grass.

Today in the yard we kick a ball back and forth
and I ask her, my daughter, about that word.

Does she know why that word might
be wrong for her to scratch with a stone

upon the wall of the school where I teach
poetry, writing, language, irony.

Do you know what it means? How it means?
When it hurts and when it is just

the right word to say, shout, at times in hate,
often in joy? Do you know its bonfires?

Have you heard of a bird, the kestrel, called
windfucker who flies against the breeze?

That the word was a word meaning to strike?
Do you know the word (sometimes) means sex?


She knows little of this, but nods when I ask,
You’ve heard us say it before and wanted

to play with it, to see it pour from your own fingers?
Words have power, don’t they?
I ask and

she mumbles a yes. But if you don’t know the word
and what it can do, you lose control

of that power, like letting loose a swallowing
storm. Do you see that now?
Yes, she did see,

last night, crying in the dark, the storm
that swallows, that hurts, that bellows, that strikes.

 


Matt W. Miller
Copyright © 2014  

Matt W. Miller has published work in Slate, Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review, Southwest Review, Florida Review, and DMQ Review, among other journals. His is the author of Club Icarus (UNT Press), selected by Major Jackson as the 2012 Vassar Miller Poetry Prize winner, and Cameo Diner: Poems (Loom).


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