My father was a vendor of cabbage nets.
What was yours? This is a portrait
of my father as a soldier; this the blade
he carried, like a saber, not a saber,
but a blade-like sword of grass
plucked from a tuft of summer vegetation
in which the sparrows made their homes
and hid their green and fragile eggs.
Look into his eyes: shy green eyes
like the osprey or the finch.
They are not gray like the plover, but the hand
that holds the weapon is curled into a talon
like the gray-eyed peregrine falcon.
He too was peregrine, though his brow
took on, at times, the clanging certainty
of the bells of eleven, and the bells
of ten and eleven. He and I have come
to an understanding, simple and fragile
as any pact, as any tentative peace,
as any woven nest of any plover. And though
he killed your father, who had been
a manufacturer of scented pocket calendars
and other printed matter before he was a soldier,
still we came through and were wedded,
and our mothers washed the blue-green wedding plums
in the last of your father’s wine and the river’s ice-cold water,
and with ivy leaves adorned the fragile body
belonging to you, his daughter. And now
in our blue and fragile home
beneath the birds and singing trees
we keep the portraits of our fathers
on either side of a clock made out of roses,
thorns, stems, stones, fountains, garden pathways.