Forever, my father has rambled
through gardens speaking of weathers and plants.
I always wanted him holding forth
in company as he did from the pulpit
on Sunday morning.
I remember him and Uncle Jimmy
riding the porch into darkness,
outlasting the bats and mosquitoes —
his brother all the way from Iowa
and my father, rooted in homeliness,
spoke of rain and roses.

Thirty years later, he writes me letters
on the backs of old church bulletins.
The front proclaims: "How Beautiful
upon the Mountain are the Feet
of Them that Serve the Lord!"
The litany: temperatures day and night,
rainfall past and prophesied,
what's in bloom and what has blown.
I dig for something deeper than tulips,
a message pithy with words that damn or save.

Today I am remembering the summer
I spent sick in bed. My father
gave me ice cream for my throat
and a flashlight to get better by.
I shone the light through the flesh
between my fingers. It glowed
like red stained glass, bloomed
like rose-blood between the bones.
My father stood at the window
looking out. "Ninety in the shade,"
he said. "Showers later on, for sure.
Look. Come look at my dahlias.
When did you ever see such red?"

# # # #