Janine's Father

Janine's father was boyflower

corn-row head

with black-thought polyps

atop a reed body

that sang the winds

as they blew through him

and grew him up

smile ran curves around you like a pinwheel

with windmill power revived

th' inner child you swallowed

after your third job

and made it dance,

feets tickled your throat,

made you laugh, love him,

entire rooms sighed and shrank when he left:

he'd lifted them into

2-story juke joints bouncing

with the electric piano keys of his gapped-tooth smile,

at the cost of an old joke

the old folks felt like geniuses

the TV sat alone in its own shadow

quiet and pious

stabled horse at Bethlehem

Janine's father

liked church as much as mosque and temple

as much as the dusty books found

in the room kept closed for grandma's soul,

thought it funny adults created safe-houses

for their ideas

as if dreams

would collapse after the first grass-stain

couldn't stand to bruise,

...or breathe...

...or bleed....

...or wake, or dream, or sleep...

like ideas weren't strong because the flesh

that dreamt them was weak

this was different from the planets

of back blocks & abandoned lots

where he and his friends dynastied make-believe

made law out of laughter

he spied on Earth

from behind dandelion satellites

and decided that the very young talk in song,

learn in poetry;

the very old speak in verses,

remember in story;

together we are all the Bibles, the Illiads,

Upanishads, Korans and Torahs

('cuz) sometimes we do flood

and must drain

to bring our seas and lands to balance,

we are mythmaker

as well as myth

watch & watchsmith

sandmen and sandwomyn

lives spent in Exodus,

there was a summer,

when girls smelled of uncharted oceans

that the winds loosed Janine's father's corn-row thoughts

into an afro-halo

pushed his bamboo-ing body high

saying "look"

tall as a pegasus leap over a rainbow's arch

in a sick staccato wandered

a crooked giant

zipper-faee stretched (street-length)

sectioned into office-windows

leaking human skin into

a candlewax pyre of firsts:

kisses,

fist-fights,

sunsets, secrets,

"look,"

the winds rippled through him in

sounds felt more than

heard, bouncing through corridors

of bones,

making words

"People are used here,

they are burned"

and Janine's father asked

"but are we not truly the phoenixes

of our own legend?

mustn't we burn -

to rise again,

diamonds?"

and the wind blew,

and he saw the bodies slumped in chairs

like tortured wicks,

the faces sagging

like used cigarettes

(and he knew)

"this is how you kill a phoenix:

consume its flame"

he never heard the wind again

removed his halo as a warrior

surrenders a headdress

breaking it into pieces like

bread crumbs for the last supper,

swallowed it:

a marooned sailor downing his rosary,

waiting for hell. it came.

because this is how I knew Janine's father:

a canon-face

attached to a Lay-Z-Boy in the evenings,

launching words like bullets

carried on Budweiser breezes,

aimed at Janine's mother 'till Janine said she's leaving

every time I see him I wanna leave him leaking

Janine just says "take it easy"

she says

"I see you men

walking in these circus tents of tensed muscles

clenched fists

propped up jagged by rage and lust and powerlessness

all ready to kill

all ready to tip over"

and she says

"something really takes the bones out of the men of this place"

the other day

I planted flowers for every boy who used to be one.

with reed bodies that once sang the winds

as they blew through us

and grew us up

until the world

rended of us bone, gave us bullets,

and demanded we be tough.

for every song swallowed,

for every phoenix smoked,

Janine and I hold hands

and in the dirt we plant new myths