I took my father’s guitar from the wall
where it had always brooded;
cradled the soot-black wood, hewn
from an oak that lost heart and died;
struck life into the brutal piano-wire
strings that stung my plump,
pink-fleshed fingers as I
strummed a fragile minor chord.
I picked a trembling, defiant arpeggio
that somehow scaled a forbidding rise.
The instrument opened its throat, swallowed once,
and sang again its unforgiving songs.
The booming bass crowed of Jay and his Rooks,
as sharpened accidentals, lacking sustain,
faded unresolved into the diminishing history
of a foreigner at home, a stranger to me.
It sang of piano-key teeth cracking
a syncopated smile, chewing
on a chicken-town sandwich. My father,
raising his ragged red flag over a broken castle;
at green Picasso beads. My father,
with my mother’s friends; slaking his thirst
with stagnant water,
and singing only of the past.