Edie Meade is a writer and artist in Huntington, West Virginia (USA).
Recent work can be found in Invisible City, (mac)ro(mic), Atlas & Alice,
The Normal School, Pidgeonholes, and elsewhere. Say hello on Twitter
@ediemeade or https://ediemeade.com.
Ask Your Mother About February in Tucson
The back of my brain knuckles its false wall—
Listen, your dad is dead.
I know that already. Tell me what to do with that information.
It's giving semi-precious stones in hammered silver rings.
Gaudy belt-buckled promises, poems each
one-of-a-kind on a felt roll full of same-such trinkets
sold off the tailgate of a wood-paneled Wagoneer.
It's giving It's not a living but it's living.
Born in February of a blizzard year
in South Tucson where my parents lit to escape
the cold. Back home snow piled to the power lines;
Babe the Blue Ox sought refuge in the house.
The Ohio River froze over.
Other tall tales true.
Mom nine months pregnant smoked
to stay awake through the wasteland of West Texas.
Dad was so tired because he never slept, you see.
Delivered safely to an incubator on an Air Force base,
I warmed under lamps until the jaundice cleared.
The altitude, you see.
Dad wore his pistol and thousand-yard stare
amalgamating courage and fear.
Plating injury with aggression.
He found me on the long-lost grave of Cochise.
He bought me off the bottom shelf at the liquor store.
He plucked me from a basket floating down the Pantano Wash.
I believed in intensity.
Unbelief was danger.
Dad and the sun were all I knew about Tucson.
I have no conversion table to translate
repressed memories into grief.
Give me some metric.
In college I met a boy born a week after me
from Nogales, Mexico,
seventy miles from my birthplace.
I wished we'd had more in common
than distance. But he didn't even measure in miles
and a hundred kilometers seemed so far, somehow
unfathomable to me
and, after all,
I was afraid of my dad.
This man who could barely write
scratched out a letter in my birthday card each year—
My desert flower.
Scented with smoke-spit and loose-leaf fingertip,
American Spirit roll-your-owns on his tray,
on the top of his gun safe, among untouched medicine
bottles coated in a sticky tar and felted with dust.
I placed each card in a book I didn't finish,
like pressed flowers marking my place
and tucked the books back into my shelf
with my own promises to visit.
February is a hand-tinkered silver, a white-veined stone,
the metal on metal tap from the backroom where Dad smelts,
capping bullets. Preparing. Which is neither living
nor a living. February is preparation.
A month before he died,
Dad wanted to take a trip back to Tucson,
climb Cochise Stronghold.
He could not even climb his stairs.
Cold is more beautiful in memory
with skin-sense stripped away. The desert, too.
I write this flock of Februarys. It's not good enough.
Tell me what to do. Speak in my dad's voice.
A smoker's cough
chews halfway through wallboard—
Listen, your mom is still alive.
Saguaros shadow my parents,
like so many relatives I never knew
who had answers without questions.
Dad, sidearmed, saluting the sun,
Mom smiling her eyes closed.
Back to Front.