With six tattooed tears down his left cheek,
Hector Rodriguez would read the grey pamphlet
Of my face to the bone, then whisper pussy
For the pleasure of seeing that word secrete
Flat smiles across the face of every other boy.
“Put up your dukes”—I can’t believe I said that,
Like that, or that I tried to stand like a boxer
In a movie, my paired fists telescoping
Beyond my racketing elbows. All I remember really
Is how I woke up—down. I never knew for how long,
Only that Hector’s punches had knocked
A handful of minutes out of my fourteenth year,
And that a voice out of heaven kept on asking me:
How many fingers? Even now, there seem to be too many.
Even now, a wheel of fire descends from heaven
Over the suburbs, and I stare into the face
Of an angry god, and though I am really
Only talking about of the afternoon sky
Spreading out behind my old man’s shoulders
As he inspects the black-blue apple of my face,
I can hear, as though everything were yesterday,
His one commandment: “to go get that son-of-a-bitch
Tomorrow,” until Hector punches out
Another handful of minutes again, and the sky
Asks me to count its fingers again,
And my father sends me out again, the prophet
Of his one message. Day after day, until, finally,
Even the questions of the sky are lost into the sound
Of a car engine, turning over and over as my father gets out
To use the word of ‘love’ in vain, and walks.
Andrew Miller was born in Fresno, California. His poetry has appeared in such literary magazines as Laurel Review, Spoon River Review, and Iron Horse Literary Review. In addition, Mr. Miller is the author of Poetry, Photograph, Ekphrasis: Lyrical Representations of Photography from the 19th Century to the Present and the co-editor of The Gazer Within, the Selected Prose of Larry Levis. He lives in Copenhagen, Denmark, with his family.