Outside, snow marks the jagged seams
of the flagstone my father wrestled into walkway
while in the warm kitchen,
the old man takes the head of the table
to wield his knowledge like an ax
and beat back weaker creatures.
I wear my good-daughter mask
under the storm of facts –
dinosaurs, angels, Abel, the Alps,
depth perception in hawks.
But Rob, twelve now, passionate and
brave, says optical or curvilinear
and the old man, knife and fork in hand,
focuses on him a measuring glare,
sweeps it down the table in case
someone else imagines they know
some word outside his grasp. I look down.
And Rob adds parallax or maybe
Now, words batter the ceilings, throw themselves
against the window. The boy says retina
and aerial perspective. Aerial.
Perspective. The man says, Stereopticon.
Monocular. Distance Fog. Defocus….
He stops, reaches for his phrase, and dread
rises in me. Where will I hide
in a world my father doesn’t own?
Blur, he says, Defocus blur.
And now the boy’s treble
wobbles to a stop, the old man
grasps his son, marches him to the World
Book Encyclopedia where Rob
must read aloud on the subject of hawks
and how we see.
I clatter the plates to drown
my brother’s breaking voice.
I think of him like a shivering fur
under the stooping shadow
and decide I have no choice.
I must myself become
the bloody beak and talons.
About Gail: Gail spent many years watching her husband survive and occasionally flourish as a jazz musician. At the same time, she worked to help young writers discover their own voices. She has decided it’s time to find out what she might have to say for herself. She writes from a long perspective – but up close – about what it feels like to live an ordinary woman’s life. For that, She has all the credentials she needs. Her poems have been published recently in such venues as Calliope, Blue Collar Review, Common Ground Review, 14 x 14, and Mote’s Anthology of Writings about Music and Aries.