Nathan McClain

The Gospel of Geppetto

When last the father built & blew
Chalk dust on the flame, the flame spake
Of music, crickets

Whose legs bruised the stiff
Evening wind, the salted sky
Spake swarms of locust

Kissing the ears
Of sweet corn & plucking their husks
Spake a father who cut his son

From the thick trunk of an oak
Bored holes where the boy’s eyes would set
The boy’s mouth a penciled line

Spake a father who sent his son into the world
With a messenger bag & brittle limbs, sticks
Whittled so thin he itched whenever near

The crackle of wood, some flame
Bent in his direction, & he felt as if fish
Swam the length of his veins like canals

The flame spake a father shriveled
To the apple core he was
As the years spooled about his ankles

Spake a fishing line kinked from a father
Who feels his wrist tugged & reels
In absence after absence

Spake a son who never hungered
While his father ate starfish suctioned
To the roof of a whale’s large mouth

At times untranslated, the flame spake & went

Dear Father

—all summer long beyond the mausoleum, we boys sip sweetened water from cantaloupe rinds. The monarchs, migrating, sweep by—they whisk the tufts of a young girl’s hair, they pin her dark locks into architecture (A clock tower perhaps? Or is it a cathedral?). She bites into a raw tomato—pulp and seed blot her blouse. We see monarchs whirr the silence bracketed by an hour’s brass gong. Did the mausoleum house the sexlessness of rib and coccyx bone? An origami ark to be polished by the lighthouse with a cone of light? Dear father, let me begin again: we wanted to drift clear of your black weather, you, who caress the pudgy cheeks of other sons. A breeze wafts cherry-blossom off the young girl’s throat. She thins like a cloud, or like the memory of cloud. She thins like the shadow of a man; the streetlamp calls him home. Though we don’t understand, we cross our hearts; we do not hope to die.