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My Father, Keeping the Backyard

by Shannon Castleton

With the lump in his back there’s more
to think about. My father, still
in a wicker lawn chair, scans his aspens
and thinks of morning—of the smooth blade
opening his new scar for the second time in May.

When I visit like this, he corners me
with endings, says he's ten years
past the age his father reached
when a '62 Chevy split him wide
against a blunt curb. Two days later
the town mortician, tonic-haired
and grey-suited, shook my sixteen-
year-old father's hand. He said,
"We almost couldn't view your dad
he was torn so bad, But I wrapped
his side with the same stuff
the ladies save Sunday dinner in.
Some days all you can do is keep
these bodies together."

Of course my father has become
the mortician, Each time he performs him
the last words change. Tonight
it was blood, the thin wrap seeping,
and, "The inside always wants out."

Later, viewing my father
from the sliding glass door,
I know the mortician is who he believes.
Even with my mother, brown-legged
and deep in her tomatoes, fuchsia nodding
from their pots on the deck, promising
love in each round flower, he dreams

his way out. Lips straight, a long finger
circling the chilled rim of a juice glass,
he eyes this yard till dar., When he creeps
to the house I can't tell his arms
from the warm, rich black.