My Father’s Voice by Melody Wilson

My Father’s Voice

My face was always dirty. I blamed it on the wind
or my invisible friend. Mama stretched over the seat,

licked her thumb, scrubbed at my grubby cheeks.
Facing front again, she lurched into song, usually

How Much is that Doggie in the Window. My sisters
would plead for our father to sing—his smile

in the rear view, straight teeth, black mustache,
his turn at last. He sang like the best part of the sun—

like the Santa Anas that flowed in over his arm resting
on the door. As I walked out on the streets of Laredo…

four bare-legged girls lined up on the back seat—suddenly silent.
The primer-red Caddy sailed over the ribbon of asphalt

that held down the sand …as I walked out in Laredo one day….
Somewhere there’s a layer of time where leather still smells

like gasoline, where the Mojave rolls absently by, the song
just now falling, weaving itself into wind.

*

Melody Wilson’s recent work appears in Quartet, Briar Cliff Review, The Shore, Whale Road Review, Timberline Review, SWWIM, and Tar River Poetry. She received the 2021 Kay Snow Award, Honorable Mention for the 2021 Oberon Poetry Award, and finalist in the 2021 Patricia Dobler Poetry Award.

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Poem by Melody Wilson

The Doctrine of the Kite

It floats from my fingertips—
a cathedral of rice paper
and balsa.
“Lighter than air,” Daddy said,
sipped his beer,
tapped ash from his cigar.

He said gold pounded thin enough
would cover the earth; meat should
never be wrapped in foil.
The number three always brings bad luck.

Morning was crowded with kites:
boxes, diamonds, deltas.
Children pelted the playground,
paper whiffling, tails flowing,
they released the keels
trusted in speed and skill.
Lines sang through sweaty hands.

Six toed cats are charmed, he said,
and Joshua trees can move.
Man and God are forever
locked in duel.

I held the kite above my head that day
reciting everything he said.
It quivered once,
twice, then rose
and rose.
The string pulling away
from the spool.

*

Melody Wilson lives and teaches near Portland, Oregon. She has one Academy of American Poets Award, and several smaller awards including a 2020 Kay Snow award. Her work has appeared in The Portland Review, Visions International, and Triggerfish Critical Review.