family & language

Tonight I have a reading at The Book Bin in Salem, Oregon. This reading will be my first official reading from my new book, Until We Are Level Again (Mongrel Empire Press).

until 3_300In honor of the reading, I am sharing the poem below which inspired the cover art by Ani Schreiber. Birds figure heavily in the new book, landing and taking flight like the few things I know about my father; their movement of coming and going also mirror the guesswork his absence puts into my hand.

I once worried about writing too many poems about my father’s absence, and family in general. This book – along with Small Fires (FutureCycle Press) and a newer, unpublished manuscript – serve as a kind of trilogy answer to this worry. Every poem serves as another moment in a large conversation about language and family, one in which family is language I am trying to understand. When a family member is missing in this world, the feeling is like a misplaced word. I write to turn over words for the family they show.

The Story of the Prisoner Who Made Friends with a Sparrow – José Angel Araguz

My father digging
for grubs and snails, eating
his bread only enough
to leave crumbs on his palm,
his hand out each morning
through the bars, holding out
whatever he has found
for the flutter that knows him,
the eyes that never meet his,
that look around him,
for him, a child’s eyes
almost, unable to place
or name a father,
only take
what he can spare,
and move on.

*

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