I learn of Grandfather’s fists when I am twenty:
his hands, decades-strengthened and stained,
became pickaxe’s chunking my grandmother’s
strata from the vein, metamorphically altering her face
into an anthracite so glassy that in my memories of
her blackened eyes I see myself, bituminous, releasing
firedamp, long before a blacksmith can use me
in his forge.
Inherited from my father
who inherited them from his mother
who received them from her
mother’s mother’s mother.
A scientific study notes
an inherited deficiency in Slavs
displays its art where
the skin is thin and the
blood pools easily.
the result of exhaustion
the result of crying
the result of not sleeping
on one’s back
At age 8, I asked her
why; she said
“It’s a good cover.”
She never explained for what.
I never believed the man who whispered
“My pretty Ukrainian, you are beautiful
when you weep” then stopped the tear’s
trail on the apple of my cheek. I turned,
ashamed, the black-purple rising
through a layer of cheap concealer.
My mother told me the gray eyeshadow
and charcoal-colored lip matte made
my dark circles more noticeable, but
I couldn’t accept the roses and pinks,
the somber blushes packed in a black
I couldn’t curtain my windows
behind fabric unfamiliar to my tastes.
Around day 22, the darkness worsens,
the result of simple biologics: my body’s
need to rid itself of a lining unused.
My father comments “You look exhausted.”
I blame work: the strain of essay-grading,
that marking time, cruel and selfish, indiscriminate.
An ex-boyfriend once walked the night’s streets,
stared directly into streetlamps, then cried
“The orbs! The orbs! Always the black orbs!”
Three months later, homeless, he read On the Beach
during the day in a cemetery, and on holidays
he volunteered in a soup kitchen
housed beside the Goodwill,
its back turned on the alley where he slept,
his backpack beneath his head.
The dark’s invader only worsens with age.
I see my father, 79, the puffiness significant
after sleepless nights of letting the dogs in
and out so they can bark at rustling limbs
shaking loose rainy November nights,
freezing to the knots on the deck’s oak
ring closing on ring closing on ring closing on ring.