Considering Impermanence at Five
When my Nana died I was too young
to understand. Where did she go
answered heaven. Tried to imagine it—
like the rosettes she sewed onto my dress,
something new that wasn’t there, the bows
she tied into my hair. & when I’m trying
not to think I wonder where she is now.
Like yesterday as I was getting dressed
& a man watched through the window.
Between the scandent leaves a squall of billed cap red.
Tall, blocking light, an open maw. At first
I thought hide. Some cinder urged me
stand there. And I did. I didn’t care. Laureled
in vines and dim light. Open blinds.
Even dressed—my blouse glutting breasts. Hair,
persimmon. I liked the attention. I know
I’m hellbound. Was the fetus
I aborted alive yet? I don’think so. Mom once said
the monarch in the yard was Nana & I panicked.
It’s mangled wings threshing frantic.
Heaven, glorified. Today I’ll shut the blinds.
My Father and I Watch the Sun Set in Different Places
Soon my father will be out of prison
but before we pick him up, my mom takes
me to the arcade. Ten dollars. She
wants to make this a day I’ll remember.
I remember the thick golden coins. I kept
them long after we left. I saved the father’s day
gifts I made in school just for that day—
disintegrated papier-mâché, us in crayon with the sun
colored into the corner. All the little things I kept,
I knew he had nothing left. Addiction just takes
& takes. It took his teeth, our house. I remember
thinking we’d get to go back. I asked my mom when & she
told me it was gone. That meant she
didn’t want to say. Later that day
we sat at the dinner table & my father remembered
things he did—told us about prison,
the food, the tattoo he got. It says my name. He took
his shirt off to show us & my mom looked away. I keep
that memory like a golden coin, an heirloom plate. I kept
the coins, just in case—in a box that says my name. He said he
didn’t need them. I thought he would someday. I take
the box down from a shelf, my fingers grey with dust. Yesterday
my dad called crying, apologized for going to prison.
He told me that he couldn’t remember
much about that day—the day he left. I tell him what I remember:
the arcade, the tattoo on his chest, the way the skin kept
the shape of my name, those golden coins that looked like the sun.
I wonder if he needs them yet. I won’t ask because I know he
won’t take help. He wants to be a man that way. Most days
I don’t hear from him but I tell him it’s okay. I want to take
the freeway to his house. I’ve seen the things he has to take—
the homeless man, steel reserve in hand. Every member
of his trailer park on meth, yelling in the street about the day
light that never stays. He wants a taste. His airstream kept
original shag carpet, grey dust on everything, the black hole he
punched into wood paneling. At 6pm he watches the receding sun,
the same light that swept the arcade, our old home—it kept
him warm in prison, beamed into his cell—a little yellow in the grey. He
hates to see that orange color run away. My father and I look at the sun.
My dad says I should visit Italy
something about our ancestors. I don’t know how
to tell him I’m already here—
how I called him from the top of the duomo
& we talked about the weather in San Bernardino.
The rusty sun—the way it burnt him. I sent a postcard
without a stamp, hoping he might receive it.
His memory is honeyed & I don’t want to embarrass
him. He talks about going to the vet for dental care
because what else do you do when you keep losing
teeth? A man sits with a cup beneath
the duomo. A local calls him names—tells me
not to give him a euro. I want to give him everything
I have—the yellow moon shaped coins that ring
like bells in my bag. I feel something every
hour on the hour. The church serves
me a reminder & I talk to myself because no one
knows what I’m saying. My father loses things
that are bigger than me—a truck, his pitbull,
gallons of change. I pray for him to a God that loves
copper. At night, I meet a woman and her
partner. I spend the night with them because what
else do you do when they keep buying drinks
& you want something sweeter? My dad says
I should visit Italy. I tell him that we’ll go together.
Hannah Schultz is a poet from Southern California, and currently resides in San Francisco. Her work is published or forthcoming in Slipstream, Cultural Daily, Neon Door, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Trampoline.