The Grandfathers’ Clock

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The myth of grandfathers
is a wayward clock embedded
in the chests of my tribe.

To this clock we pray,
beg it to tell us everything else
but the passing of time.

Long before our country was even born,
we wove an intricate untruth of heavy shadow
men carved into daguerreotypes hanging
over the fireplaces, next to the weapons:
a convenient religion, as reliable as a loose tooth.

The men measure their grit against it,
always finding themselves wanting.

The men of my tribe are weak.
They have been given the birthright
but not the right to dream. Their hands
fumble in daylight, hungering for purpose.

The women of my tribe are built like avalanches.
They fear the noise and the fall that comes with it,
so they marry first, love later, and make children
with the lifespan of winter fires. Their names
sound like slammed doors and rattling shutters.

I am a holy unbeliever in the religion
of my tribe. The day I crawled out from it,
my name became an amputated arm.

I sold my birthright for the right to dream.
I have made children whose names are silver rivers,
whose religion is the Restless Spirit.

At bedtime, I show them my chest
as a cautionary tale:

See this clock ticking in the blood.
It is the compass I use to point away from myself.

The short arm is the trail of lost prodigals
bursting through the barbwire shadows
of rugged and unforgiving mystical men.

The long arm is the ghost of my longing,
a tide in my blood beckons like a dying
siren’s throat. An enchanted lie.
A name no longer mine.

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