my father in four rooms

the flatscreen in his living room is set to a channel from his country.

it begins with a J and finishes with the inherent tardiness of patois. from the speakers plays an idyll for an island I've ever only known of every 6th sunday. a rock the shape of a cloud driven lazily by thrashings of whip towards the atlantic for yet three more centuries as commodity of flesh.

he cranks the volume. the molasses voicework of students clamoring for air out of the speakers are bent in half by the time they hit my ears. they mourn, not mouth the syllables in the words blessings and guidance, freedom and mighty hand.

their tongues recall more from promise than experience the semiotics of the words keeping, defenders and eternal fathers. not once do I hear the word mother falter off of their lips with a scraped tenor of indignity.

   they sing my national anthem too.
  jamaica, jamaica, jamaica land we love,

the gloss of the refrain as a massive flag withers, smiling threadbare and delirious against the bleaching of sunlight, tacked on the wall of a barbican primary school as if it were lost at sea, dehydrated and expecting swift rescue.

the colours still seem like they were eaten away by all the bitterness of salt. I look to the hue of my arms, crossed flat against my chest. I've never noticed that I'm black, and green and yellow. and just above the flag, written in the detachedness of the queen's good english - out of many, one. out of one father, many.

andthe refrain one last jamaica, land we love, as the station goes offair.

in the final comment of static is my face, reflected in the messwork of black and white.

    he never wakes at the end of the broadcast.
   he never wakes, haggard and shieldless at dawn to fight for me as hard as  
   black pixels for territory on a 64" tv.


he breaks a chunk of coco bread in two at the kitchen table. the dawnlight settles on his trucker hat as if it were a halo.

he hands me my half. I realize it's his way of offering me communion. until now the flesh of god has only ever tasted like wonderbread. until now I've only dream of a sweeter, darker body.

my last breakfast is the bite of an untasted father, the bread of a son that will rise more soft and unevenly than a lame dough.

   this is my body, this is my boy,
   but I don't take the host.

if there's anything the salvation of flesh falling stale on the tongue has taught me, failed in the effort to satiate the famine he effected, it's that there's a kind of sainthood in denying your mouth to a man giving as freely of himself as a ritual. it's that there's a special holodomor for those who spend a life sheaving torsoes of wheat and not milling them on the molar.

    until now I've only preferred denying sacrifice for the aftertaste of aloneness.

we eat in the patent quietus of an abbey. we never asked for silence, but there are no blessings I wish to eat from his hands like a pilgrim. the uneaten bread returns to crumb as sure and ash as a knee on my plate and we drink to everlasting life

   and undying hunger.


his greenhouse is a poor excuse for the bush. the leaves of the rosemallows lining the far wall are sharpened like straightrazors - the prairie chill inevitably crept in and whetted them against itself. they remind me I can't hope to know tracing the grain of a man's jugular without cutting it to strips of mandeville green.

a piece of fruit falls prematurely from the lemon tree crouched in the corner. the sack of topsoil it lands on looks to be exactly the same weight as him, and I start to think all things that are held by earth as pitch and sour as he is;

   all orphan-spat sunflower seeds.
   all west-indian transplants that ultimately fail in canadian soil.
   all foetuses of mandrake bastard,
   all bones quietly cradled by the inertia of soil and father.

if I were a bone I'd be the smallest of his left ribs, adam's original investment returned with no interest. even in this iteration of his eden, redundant and calcified into off-whiteness.


the bible pages are plastered to the ceiling of his bedroom. he's so short I'm dead sure that the family living here before must have put them up.

   was he even a christian before he slept here?
   how many more waxlight hours has he spent studying how many of his own
   children the hebrew god killed in the old testament and comparing numbers?
   how many hours of getting to know that god better than me?

his ancestors learned the religion of sleeping under a ship deck ceiling. a layer of wood and a trampling of white feet between them and heaven.

   did their sons know them like the father?

he settles on his bed without leaving the slightest ripple of topsheet, exposed like the lining of moonlit casket. the wind that will eventually blow him over into a finality breaks through the window, and a page from the book of genesis comes unfixed from the offwhite plaster.

   to be a genesis undone:
   the yearling-bone glue wouldn't hold my face fast to the ceiling for him to study  
   like ink and onion-paper.

the page falls still in the eveninglight, still settling on my head with the sound of his tongue on fir