my daughters are out by the gazebo
searching through the chi-chi flowers
for the tie-dyed painted eggs
My wife urges
them to hurry, A storm is coming,
I remember my mother always
warning about Satanas, el barbudo,
the man with broken, yellow teeth,
foul breath, gnarled hands loose
upon the earth, when Christ
dies on the cross. No singing,
no playing, no fun …
My grandmother dying
in the penumbra of her bedroom,
her dentures floated in water,
her breathing irregular,
her dreaming filled with calling
out of names, dead people
I never met, did not know,
but whose names I knew
from hearing my father tell stories.
The dog finds most
of the eggs, crunches them
and eats them, shell and all.
The winds pick up the beards
of Spanish moss, wisteria petals
fly into the darkening skies.
Inside my grandmother’s mouth
I see a darkness like no other,
her tongue lies dead in her toothless
mouth. My wife tells
my daughters to come inside.
I sit in my room looking out
toward the pond, where
the wind forms a dust devil.
A shadow lingers by the bridge
Could be my father,
looking out for the rest of us,
or Christ, or old Satan—
Hard to tell what a man chews
in his mouth for so long, mulling
over all this darkness in the world.
First published in Meanjin Volume 62, Number 2, 2003.