My father was really shouting at me

because he didn’t love himself because he didn’t love his father,

or at least 

that’s how my mother weaved it later.


I was like a mirror, too familiar to him,

a boy dumb-stunned by the big world,

empty as a jar,

empty as an afternoon 

spent watching a cork bob barely

in the ash green sleep of a small pond,

empty as cigar smoke

lifting its silent cursive

around a boy

who has nothing to say for himself.


He had to know then

that the only way forward 

was away

and how the words of our fathers

pinball around our bones

dialing up different faces and shapes

until we look like one of Picasso’s people

and the ghosts have no place left to hide, 

until we're the walking arithmetic of change itself,

a portrait of a stranger

with life's first and last lesson 

chambered like a bullet 

in the rhombus of our heart in our heart.


And who could recognize himself now

here in the smoke of my decisions?