A Grove of Wilted HemlockMature

A man gets a phone call from a father, and floods of flashbacks fling him into an emotional journey where he must decide to cast him away or return his call.

I was standing in a garden as it was getting late,

so I left that Eden and wandered down the road

leaving original sin for the imitation. 


But then I got a call eight years late,

from a dad living in a grove of wilted hemlock

that traded in white petals for black,

giving apology for the heart he had stopped on the deadbeat,

through the marriage scattered by the dust and trampled under his feet.


As I walked down a path of palm leaves
he spoke to me like dandelion seeds across the breeze,

but I couldn't bare it - so I hung up on him,

because I was so afraid of what he might say

as if I was Judas on the Judgment Day.


I hung up on him,

even though I knew it was human to fear what looms in the dark,

to feel wounded because tulips bloomed everywhere

except in her heart

when her lips were out-of-season thistles 

with twisting thorns like piercing nails.


I hung up on him,

like the time he hung me up by my neck

with fingers that wrung me out

like wet clothes.

And he screamed like a thousand Romans

that he wanted me dead.


I walked uphill with a burden on my back

toward the bus stop that'd take me home.

I fiddled with my phone until the bus headlights shone like tiny torchbugs,

which made the memory seep through

of the time we fished on that misty twilight,

as the fireflies lit up that cold night.

We spent it laughing at stars as we cast off

without questioning Christ on your white lies.


When I got into the bus I was back in your ford

getting driven home under the eyes of an angry lord

as you let slip through the cracks in your voice;

"John, Mommy don't love me anymore."

I saw you cry for the first time

and I wondered if demons could care

as you ran your coarse hands through my hair.


I passed my stop and got off at my old school,

where I'd sing rhymes at recess.

I made one up of a man, who with a knife,

carved his spite into a woman's skin.

So they called my mom, who when we were home,

with one palm on my shoulder,

and the other on her golden necklace cross,

let slip between the cracks in her voice;

"You're gonna be just like your old man when you grow up."


It began to rain as I muttered under scared breath,

"I wont be him,"

"I wont be him,"

"I wont be him,"

Like a child trying to convince herself ghosts were myths

but you're not a math,

or a ghost I can just do away with,

so I called you back

and let slip through the cracks in my voice;

"I'm so sorry."

Because I know when your country gospel hymns play

you'll trade black wings for white,

because you missed the cold night

the fireflies lit up the sky.


So as I walked down my path to nowhere

toward a horizon of golden dust pollen,

I wondered if hemlock seeds could grow into roses.

And I followed the streetlights lining the road like crosses,

and I tried to see you in them,

but there was only flies and moths,

flying toward but never quite reaching,

that searing, burning, light.

The End

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