At first I hear it as a puff of wind
splitting the pitosporum tops, then the window shade
snapping up. My father is sitting beside me
measuring my sleep. He shakes a jar of pennies
at the bedside to waken me and asks
if I’m still wetting  the bed. He counts my ribs
and I float in his arms to a flat spot
on the rooftop, past the endless neon,
so close to the moon’s face, given the chance,
I could pinch the vein pulsating its cheek.
We begin by inventing countries
out of the elastic pattern of clouds
and when the sky shrinks to a platter I ask him
what it’s like to be dead and he answers,
“For some it’s not as bad as they say.”
From the loose gravel below our feet
we shape bodies: twigs and splinters of wood shake
for bones, wind swept candy wrappers for skin
then one by one we dismantle them,
feed them to starlight and he tells me how
as an anatomy teacher he would, as a final exam,
throw a cadaver bone three feet above his head
and expect the precise answer before it landed.
My mother was his student and when I ask
if he loved her he says, “I always
tossed her the fibula.” He cradles me
to his chest and I’m content in the frailty
of my own bones, at how his invisible body
and mine for a brief moment traveled
through the same spoke of light, knowing
if he were to return it would make little difference.

 

From Oarless Boats, Vacant Lots. Copyright © Jon Veinberg