Conductors of His Mystery (2009)

Anthony Joseph

Oxford English Dictionary (OED) Links On

for Albert Joseph

The day my father came back from the sea
broke and handsome
I saw him walking across the savannah
and knew at once     it was him.
His soulful stride, the grace of his hat,
the serifs of his name
~ fluttering ~
in my mouth.

In his bachelor’s room in El Socorro that year
he played his 8-tracks through a sawed-off speaker box.
The coil would rattle an the cone would hop
but women from the coconut groves
still came to hear
his traveller’s tales.

Shop he say he build by Goose Lane junction.
But it rough from fabricated timber string.
Picka foot jook wood
like what Datsun ship in.

And in this snackette he sold     red mango,
mints and tamarind.
Its wire mesh grill hid his suffer well tough.
Till the shop bust,
and he knock out the boards
and roam east
to Enterprise village.

Shack he say he build same cross-cut lumber.
Wood he say he stitch same carap bush.
Roof he say he throw same galvanize. He got
ambitious with wood
in his middle ages.

That night I spent there,
with the cicadas in that clear village sky,
even though each room was still unfinished
and each sadness hid. I was with
my father
and I would’ve stayed
if he had asked.

Brown suede,
8 eye high
desert boots.     Beige
gabardine bells with the 2 inch folds.
He was myth.     The legend of him.
Once I touched the nape of his boot
to see if my father was real.
Beyond the brown edges of photographs
and the songs we sang
to sing him back
from the sweep and sea agonies
of his distance.

Landslide scars. He sent no letters.

His small hands were for the fine work of his carpentry.
His fingers to trace the pitch pine’s grain.
And the raised rivers of his veins,
the thick rings of his charisma,
the scars — the maps of his palms —
were the sweet conductors
of his mystery.

Aiyé Olokun.

He came back smelling of the sea.

Learn more about the language of this poem in the
Oxford English Dictionary:

gaberdine [gabardine]  snackette [sna'ckette]  serifs [serif]