From The Ashes

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Navy Les Hartmann

I am from a Navy father
soaked in love for the
red, white, and blue
born of celebration
the ending of war
stateside to
Treasure Island
a tiny handmade cradle
in a little white dress
with purple flowers
his little darling
under the car shining the light
listening to him calling
it a son of a whore
the words squeeze don’t pull quiet and low
as he taught me how to shoot
tromping through the woods
dirty face and skinned up knees
chucking rocks into the bush
fishing for hours in the stream
his eye squinted against
his cigarette smoke
impatient ashes
flicked out into the night

I am from
the 1984 Olympics
and Mary Lou Retton
the slow lazy limp of the
years that followed
AC/DC and Ozzy
cranked up high
Budweiser sweating gently
playing quarters and strip poker
somehow always losing
waiting out the endless years
in time standing still
long summer
heat in a garage
kissing on the couch
fumbling awkwardly
heated hands
suede boots
fringed leather jackets
hair streaming out
the freedom of a Triumph’s roar
no fear of anything
Kohl-lined eyes
and killer legs
a mind that could hold anything
haughty, beautiful, and bright
tapping restless ashes on the concrete floor

I am from
saying I will
a long white dress
and long walk of roses
my father
wiping my tears on his tie
telling me not to go
he’d send everyone home
if I wanted to stay
I am from what it took
to descend the stairs
and take his hand anyway
quarters thrown in the wishing well
the Lord’s Prayer in acapella
one leg shaking hidden
under my skirt
his eyes clear
unworried brow
two pink lines
on a little stick
a contraction pain
tightening across my back
that hospital room
where I first met her
swept away
the moment I
fell in love
her dad downstairs
streaming ashes on the wind

I am from pain
anger and fear
lines on a mirror
stepping on a pipe
seeing her leave
in between strangers
holding their hands
born again in that moment
of dying inside
the tiny sight
of her in her denim carrot patched dress
bouncing curls from behind
leaving me

I am from words of rage
I am from clawing his face
sloshing bowls of vomit
kicked and spilling at his feet
angry fists beaten
on stark empty walls
the screaming quiet of those days
after he too had left me
selling plasma to survive
back to the Budweiser and gin
the popping whoosh
and bright hot glow
the night the bathroom caught fire
the tick-tock and cotton muffled sound
and eerie gentle peace
of the moments I stood and let it burn
dizzy and numb
watching the ashes spin away

I am from tearing down
and building again
from carrot sticks
squats, pushups,
long long hikes
and letting go
opening my arms
laying my head on his shoulder again
refusing to shrink away
not batting his hand away
unspoken myriad apologies
forgiveness and believing
against such terrible odds
caresses and touch
sitting on the couch
calloused fingertips
reaching again
his unworried eyes
two pink lines
on a little stick
friendship and trust
the lifting of eyes
the circle of prayer
holding hands
from my knees
to stand
rising up once more
full circle to where I am from
I am from
out of the ashes
and once again
come I

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