In his lover’s house, a father rises

by Roxane Beth Johnson

The end’s always there at the beginning
Dad said, quoting a prophet who knew then
what we’d come to—beings held in two hands
first slick with water, last a bowl of ash.
As a girl, I ironed his shirts, seams stained
from sweat, hot-washed in bleach turned yellow, and grass
scent of clean white rose under the iron’s
scald and steam I used to press his shirts out.
How fitting in the end a heap were found
in his lover’s house, the last I heard
of him who told me always that the grass
and ants were ancestors come back to see
if we’d crush them, then forget them again—
like dust their lives so small compared to ours.

Published on June 10, 2020

First published in Harvard Review 45

2020-12-05T16:08:49+00:00