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.


Matthew Wimberley lives in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains. His chapbook "Snake Mountain Almanac" was selected by Eduardo C. Corral as the winner of the 2014 Rane Arroyo Chapbook Contest from Seven Kitchens Press. Winner of the 2015 William Matthews Prize from the Asheville Review, and a finalist for the 2012 Narrative 30 Below Contest, his writing has appeared in: The Greensboro Review, The Missouri Review, Narrative, Orion, The Paris-American, Poet Lore, Rattle, Shenandoah, and Verse Daily. Wimberley received his MFA from NYU where he worked with children at St. Mary's Hospital as a Starworks Fellow. Wimberley was a finalist for the 2015 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Book Award.