Today I’m watching the sundown while the moths memorize my face—
like a person learns the histories of a lover’s scars—they carry it with them
back through the wet leaves and into the forest. Unlike the sky, you could count
the lights across the mountainside. Past them more lights, and further
the constellations. I used to know the names for them. I used to remember
the sound of my father asleep on a twin bed beside me, the timing belt in his breath.
Is it OK to talk about him this way—passed out as if he is here and not here—flesh
and blood in the room he grew up in. His pockets emptied: the cigarette packs,
and orange pill bottles, the nasal spray, and scratch-offs casting shadows on the desk
where he used to sit and watch the white petals of the cherry tree fall from the branches.
The right words never came to bring up our past—to speak through the silence
shared between father and son. I don’t know what makes something sacred
or worth retelling—but as the moths go deep into the woods I’m left staring
at myself as if in another world. I see how alike
we’ve become in his absence. Both eyes flicker in the reflection—two taillights
aglow at rush hour where we’re stuck in traffic headed back to his rented apartment
where he’ll spread Stan’s Pimento Cheese on bread to make us sandwiches
for dinner. He won’t notice me watching him, wondering how his hands manage such care.
In my twenties I’ve know only a little regret and misfortune—unlike him
whose whole life was hard and miserable. Even as we chew he’s only got a year to live
though no one would suspect. The night it happened he tried to call me
but I was getting drunk with a friend on dollar beer—mostly Pabst and Coors
and Sweetwater pulled from the tin-tub. I remember the brown glass, ice shaking
in a plastic cup, Andres and Chandler gambling at the pool table—the cue ball so blued
with chalk, the felt worn and stained. I drove home buzzed and happy. Once in a while
I return to that day as if to the scene of a crime—the arsonist’s desire
to see the smoke and ruin clear in the afternoon sunlight—
to walk across the blackened beams and admire whatever
survived. To inhale cinder. To not forget.