A Fairmont pushes past them, shatters
our front porch.
It’s the last night my father will tuck me in.
Red and blue lights shadow play
beasts on my bedroom walls. Outside
my father and a voice I don’t recognize
half-heartedly aside about the slob’s nose.
The voice and beasts leave
my father estimating the cost
Most of the time, they’re successful, knotted
on road salt and exhaust,
wearing litter like a badge
awarded for halting cars. My father planted them
when the stop sign moved. They’re scarred.
Hate everything, except
young weeds sheltered
deep in their sharp branches
Nasty things—I always thought.
Grandma grows strawberries
full of mischief
trying to escape her garden.
Gooseberries with little beards
on their bottoms.
Currants you can pick and floss the red beads off.
Out front, the junipers grow jealous,
dangle berries like candy on a Christmas tree
to hide needles more malicious than thorns.
My father tells me to leave those,
who would bother?
The currants are ripe again.
A truck grabbed by junipers unsettles the afternoon.
Eric, twenty-three years old,
once stole my paper route money,
has wrapped his pick-up in junipers.
He called me tit-boy,
pick-up splashed me
throwing beer bottles in the yard.
Eric, sobs now, as cops come,
pukes gin in junipers
I swear they love it.
My father and I remove the junipers
the morning I
leave for college—Mom
decided to sell. The new owners want red boulders.
He feeds branches to a mulcher.
We watch cars
pass too fast and stir
broken branches before trying
to pull the last stump.
The roots, wire fists, grasp
the earth, until my father says
his hands, old, twisted
brush stray chips off his shirt.
The cars won’t be stopped so softly soon, I think
driving to the airport. My father
asks about trivial things I may have forgotten.
We don’t hug at the gate—we never did.
I spend the flight picking
needles out of my hands.