I will always trust the homemade height chart
etched onto your dining room wall more than
the ones in doctors’ offices across America.
You stood me against the wall as soon as I could walk.
asked me to steady my quaking legs, stretch my spine so big,
so you could record who I was becoming in this body.
I’d fidget beneath the conclave of your shadow
as you meticulously counted every inch,
then carved a new line above my crown.
The fragrance of growth was the fresh rosemary
on the palms of your hands, coffee percolating,
Virginia Slims on your breath as you smiled.
I was growth rings at the heart of an oak,
emerging from the shadow of your family tree,
my identity revealed by your motherland.
Every month you repeated the ritual, engraving
my name into the wall with a new measurement,
accompanied by an entourage of dates.
Each month didn’t officially begin until I bolted
out of bed, like lighting through a tree branch,
and put the pen into your outstretched hand.
I used to ask you what I could become.
What monuments should I dare to eclipse?
Not even heaven’s ceiling can hold you
honey—grow Leaning Tower of Pisa tall,
summit of Mount Everest lofty.
Just don’t forget to return to earth
now and then to chisel a niche for loved ones
and for bedtime stories from me.
When I feel like you are a missing person,
tangled in the thickets of alternative memory,
I look at the growth rings you charted over seasons,
and I know you are here in my origin story.
I have grown past your last line. I return home,
pen in hand, to make the next mark for you.
Christian Sammartino is the Editor-In-Chief of Rising Phoenix Review and the Managing Editor and Poetry Editor for L’Éphémère Review. He is currently studying Philosophy at West Chester University. His poetry is influenced by life in the Pennsylvania Rustbelt near his hometown of Coatesville. His work has appeared in Words Dance, Voicemail Poems, Lehigh Valley Vanguard, Ghost City Review, Sea Foam Mag, Thirteen Myna Birds, Yellow Chair Review and others. He was a Resident Poet for Lehigh Valley Vanguard during the summer of 2015. His first chapbook, Keystones, was released by Rising Phoenix Press in December 2014.