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Nov 162012
 

by Zan Bockes

 

How could this small box hold my father–

great in his muscles and stride, great

for the life he loved, guiding us

to places full of light

where we were not afraid?

How did this tiny part of him

survive fire and the slamming

door of death, only gravel left

to signify the space he filled?

 

One summer night when I was eight,

I wandered from our campsite

on the Platte, crawling from the tent

over my father’s sleeping body.

I felt for trees and bushes

with blind hands, trying to remember

the path back, but I forgot

the bark of the cottonwood,

the scratch of each briar

indistinguishable from the last. 

Above, a sugar bowl of stars

offered only the truth of my

minuteness, my lostness

in the sky.

 

I crouched near a boundless

alfalfa field I’d seen by daylight,

captured by its expanse.  I waited,

listening to night shift around me.

 

Then my father’s voice

rose above the crickets:

“Where are you?”

“Here!” I cried.

The dancing circle of his flashlight

trembled in the distance.

“Where now?”

“Over here!”

“Stay there.  Let me find you.”

 

I would have run to the little light

but for the unknown that separated us.

The star grew near enough

to touch, and my father

gathered me in his sure strength,

carried me back to our canvas house.

 

The crunch of the gravel road

beneath his feet became

the sound I follow now,

far from this small event,

closer to the place he finally went

beyond this box’s hollow rattle,

where flashlights burn like the sun.