That night, a high wind whipped grit at our windows, drowned
the radio. When Daddy’s eyes rolled out of his sockets,
he caught one in the notched cup of his palm.
Mama chased the other through our battened shack, wrestled
it away from our thin-boned cat. These things happen:
twisters split the roots of our foundation, rust tatters
the edges of our spoons, the bell of every bowl is weighted
with dust. When she offered him his eye, smut-black and oozing,
he closed the other into her hand and said, cook ‘em.
Let’s eat real meat tonight.
The next day, Daddy woke with spiders nesting
where his eyes used to be. He cleared the cobwebs
with a swept thumb and sent me to melt down all Mama’s
thimbles. When they cooled to balls, he told me to paint them
blue, like he always wanted. They didn’t plug the holes
quite right, one false eye lolling like our back door, loosed
from half its hinges. Metal leaked into his blood.
Now, his tongue’s feathered with rust. He spits pennies
instead of tobacco. He and Mama don’t talk. All night,
we hear him scraping his teeth against the wet smile of his axe.
Daddy’s changed. Stripe rust thickens on the wheat
and his breath reddens even the dust. He still sees me
a little, but I don’t think he sees Mama anymore.
She fixes him lunches of screws and banjo strings.
He never thanks her. Once, I saw her juice a plum
into the bowl, rust shut his jaw. When I oiled it open,
he dropped all Mama’s needles down his throat and said
he’d spit them back at her, said he’d aim for the eyes.
When the next storm seethed through, she shoved him
into the rain and jimmied open his chest, found a cluster
of dynamite where his heart should be.
I watched from behind the kitchen door. She said,
I’ve had enough, and cut the bundle loose with her last
pair of sewing scissors. He took it out into the barn,
his heart in one hand, his axe in the other.
The day he left, Daddy twisted a nut
around each of my fingers. Now your hands
will shine. I think that once, they were pieces
of his heart. That night, I shrieked awake:
steel girdled my skin, all that shine swallowed up
in blood, metal rings notched snug under my knuckles.
When Mama came, it was too late
to cut them out, too late to do anything
but rock her hands over mine and teach me
how to bind my split-up fingers into fists.