Mere Words

Fling a handful of words
against the chill rain,
fling the choicest words
into the dark, ash-throated fireplace
and see if they kindle a flame
to keep off the wintry cold.
Cast a lifetime of mellifluous words
into the river
and haul up a fish,
a minnow,
a meager leaf.
Overspread your whole language
as the arches in a roof to keep dry
one’s head
or, lesser, a blanket
on your bed
as you shiver in the nighttime storm.
My words fail
to do what my father’s wordless hands have done.
I have never built a home of words,
but my father has built a
life for me,
a life more easily lived,
a life distracted by
head-down in study,
transfixed by scribbled ink
on flimsy paper,
smooth fingers on smooth pens,
never looking up with proper gratitude
for the wood his calloused fingers worked
to shoulder aside the brunt
of elemental onslaught—
to keep my head down,
to attempt to reach higher realms
beyond wood and fingers and ink,
and still I fail.

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