You said it was like being unwound—
a tiny fist cranking you back
into a music box—when the dawn chorus
began each spring morning, an ellipsis
of robins on the sill. You were your truest
self before the covers were thrown
to the foot of the bed, before the sound
of you brushing your teeth scuffed
against the shower water
still drawing heat from the pipes. Still wrapped
in dream-warmth, you said Good morning
with our mouths nearly touching.
When I tried to squirm away, twittering
with the birds, you held me to you,
smoothed me like a shirt
that needed ironing. Your usual joke—
two morning breaths cancel
each other out.
In my earliest years, there was
no front lawn. Only plates of concrete,
cracked and shouldering for space.
The first day of spring was never x-ed out
on the calendar, but marked when the ground
was warm enough to grill the fillets
of my bare feet. When we moved to a house
with a lawn, spring came earlier for
us, meant wet grass that dried
by noon. Golf-course green,
my father called it when he still held the power
to name things for me.
Our very own golf-course green.
You and I took turns parking in the single-
car garage when we moved in together. Fairness
was what you thought I needed. But really, I envied
the mornings when your car sponged up the sun
in the driveway, I wished for the warm
that waited for you. You never knew this,
but I stomached this small rage with coffee
until it bent me over. Soured me.
In the winters, you asked, What have I done?
I couldn’t explain the importance
of the spring morning, how I remembered
my father’s gentleness most clearly
in its simmering.
Winter took everything from me
as a child—the brittle bark that scabbed
my hands after I climbed the tree in the front yard,
the grass’s neon coat, my watchful father
on the front porch. With no fireplace,
he found other paths to heat—the refuge
of his bed, my mother’s body,
the spill-spread of a beer hitting
his center. And it’s true, there is something genetic
about craving. How was I to know
that spring would become like a shot
of whiskey, relenting
what hardened in the colder months?
I was never honest with you,
never admitted why I changed
with the seasons. You’re so damn hot
and cold, as you packed the last
of your things. Of course you left
when frost still tongued the driveway,
when snow was Wite-Out
on the roofs. For months
I remember the last time you gifted me
warmth—the slow lap
of your headlights across my thighs
as I watched you from the doorway.
Oh, how you reminded me
of my father then.
Taylor Byas is a Black poet and essayist from Chicago. She currently lives in Cincinnati, where she is a second-year PhD student and Albert C. Yates Fellow at the University of Cincinnati. She is pursuing her degree in Creative Writing (Poetry). She is a reader for both The Rumpus and The Cincinnati Review, and the Poetry Editor for FlyPaper Lit. Her work appears or is forthcoming in New Ohio Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Hobart, Pidgeonholes, The Rumpus, SWWIM, Jellyfish Review, Empty Mirror, and others.