by Anne Elezabeth Pluto


for my father


I want to memorize this

our time together — what we did

without her there to tell me

You wouldn't want this life

you're not cut out for it — and me

the child holding the reins of an unruly horse

as you took off its shoe and examined its foot

before putting the new one in place

for riding far away — from the dirt I had pulled carrots

shaped like mandrakes — or had stolen sour apples

that fell beneath the huge tree where yellow and green

caterpillars hung like earrings in the twilight — or sugar

I'd taken from the box in the pantry when she wasn't looking.

It was a fortune of smuggled goods

with which to win them over

to keep them still and nudging me for more

while you attended to their hooves.


She still tells me what to do

miraculously knows if I've lost something

she has given me — as I should only like

what she had — and I don't care — I take these

things — and wait for prescience to cover me

like a blanket — she misses you — and wants to die.

You are in every dream she has — they fill her up

to being young — and upon waking she reaches backwards

to you — left only with the bed half empty.


I'm dying to be honest

and sit her down to listen finally to me

to see me as I truly am — it's almost hopeless

and I cannot bear her cursing in three languages

for all the good it does her — it sends me into silence.

I've chartered the stars to find the constellation

of forgiveness — its open milky light inviting me forward

to resurrection — to love — to the familiar made over

against the odds of time and space.

I've memorized this, now, the young girl, her long hair

slipping from the braids — the mandrake carrot in her open

hand, the unruly horse tamed and looking at her

with trusting eyes and her blacksmith father

whispering in Russian,

Hold him — hold him tight.