“MY DADDIES HAVE VOICES LIKE BACHELORS, LIKE CASTIGATORS & CROONERS…” by Tiana Clark
Daughter, you make me shudder, make music of my bones, don’t you?
Yes, like castanets. The best blood of my blood, soft blood, boiled
blood of not knowing, bright blood is still in you now, blushing
scarlet cells blossoming in your face, plasma rich as juicy figs, cut
open & gleaming. Muscling that dark abyss, I am the jumbo starfish
skimming and slurping the wounded deep-sea floor. To get close
enough—I came to Nashville once. I wanted to feel the friction
and fiction of having a daughter there. I watched you working
at the restaurant near the replica of the Parthenon with the massive
statue of Athena burning hot and fat and gold inside like a secret sun.
I didn’t sit in your section, but near it. I saw your almond eyes
(my eyes). I saw your nose (my nose). The pressure of my face
in your face, barometric. The first words I could not gather
were on your cheeks, passerines perched on telephone wires,
soundless black ovals and lines like unsaid musical notes on a scale.
I said nothing as you passed by swaying dirty martinis in your hands
aglow like a censer, perfume of blue cheese & briny olive juice, murky
as the memory, strained as the jade distance between us. I was the last
guest at the bar, still pushing my slick steak across the white china,
knife clinking, carving the wet meat into smaller pieces of meat: dark
animal juice, gristle tug, tough then delicate tearing—I was stalling.
I didn’t want to eat it. I didn’t want another reason to get up & leave
you. You walked by me again, I whispered & mouthed slowly: olive juice.
Didn’t you watch my greasy lips as I said it? Almost looked like I said it,
huh? Dear Daughter, say it in the mirror & that’s me saying it, ok?
Would that, could that mouthing (of silent love or persona love
or mimetic love or epistolary love, or your pain-is-misplaced-here
kind of love or even the dinging repetition of daddyless love
or any kind of damn love love ever be enough? Or, I didn’t know
how to finish this poem love and I’ve been editing it for years love
until Jessica Jacobs made me rip it up love across a table until I could
see the scaffolding until I could see the secret of my poem love, which
is—father, daughter, reader, lover—I don’t have to tell you everything.
*The title is borrowed from a line in Terrance Hayes’ poem “ARSPOETICA# 789.”