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My Fathers Love Letters

 On Fridays he'd open a can of Jax
After coming home from the mill,
& ask me to write a letter to my mother
Who sent postcards of desert flowers
Taller than men.
He would beg, Promising to never beat her Again.
Somehow I was happy She had gone, & sometimes wanted To slip in a reminder, how Mary Lou Williams' "Polka Dots & Moonbeams" Never made the swelling go down.
His carpenter's apron always bulged With old nails, a claw hammer Looped at his side & extension cords Coiled around his feet.
Words rolled from under the pressure Of my ballpoint: Love, Baby, Honey, Please.
We sat in the quiet brutality Of voltage meters & pipe threaders, Lost between sentences .
The gleam of a five-pound wedge On the concrete floor Pulled a sunset Through the doorway of his toolshed.
I wondered if she laughed & held them over a gas burner.
My father could only sign His name, but he'd look at blueprints & say how many bricks Formed each wall.
This man, Who stole roses & hyacinth For his yard, would stand there With eyes closed & fists balled, Laboring over a simple word, almost Redeemed by what he tried to say.

by Yusef Komunyakaa
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