The smell was the last thing to recede
from my father after he brought his boot
down and crushed the skull
of a skunk latched to the tail feathers
of a duck. This is not how I know
him, creeping softly, weightless
before he raised his foot in violence
as he passed through a wet garden,
through a night filled with teeth before he scooped
up the corpse and tossed it into the trash.
My mother complained about the cloud that clung
to him for weeks. There are remedies
that return the skin to its sweetness:
tomato sauce, apple cider vinegar, prayer.
In a field of blueberries, the hoverflies come
for the salt of my mother’s skin.
I came because my father sent me
to find her, worried what the heat can do
after a year of collisions and surgery—
her bucket half-filled with blueberries,
we sat and listened to the sermons
of her favorite Catholic priest play
on her phone when she asked me
about the children I would not have.
I inhaled, then, their skin, the clover they hid
in the folds of their shirts, felt the heat of fingers smaller
than wasps. They trace
the scar at the back of my thumb
with their soft fingernails and ask
for a story. I change the subject, tell them
about the wasp that stung me on the lips
when I passed through the wrong
door, a hum that accelerated towards my mouth.
What did I do next? I looked for the direction
of this desire, found a paper house
that hovered above me, waiting to fall.
Albert Abonado is the author of the poetry collection JAW (Sundress Publications). He has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Albert teaches creative writing at SUNY Geneseo and RIT. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Colorado Review, West Branch, Poetry Northwest, Zone 3, and others. He lives in Rochester, NY with his wife.