Coiled roads and cul-de-sacs made us cut
across sacred lawns. A bottle of Goldschläger.
A pack of Backwoods. They smelled like stirring
chocolate. Most of the homes were split level,
beige siding, brick veneer. Floods chased
the hatchbacks. The streetlights couldn’t reach
the school parks. We sprawled, bragged,
teased, tongued. Now I look up the names
of the trees, black cherries, boxelders,
and wonder what else I never noticed. The forest preserve
was larger than the subdivision, and the coyotes
must have cut through ours to get back
to the wetlands. I swear I saw one, a shadow
along our chainlink, backed up
against Bonny Glen, homes and lawns closer
to the sanctum. Stalk in there, you wannabe
wolf. Scare those kids back inside.
No, I saw one on television, never left
the sidewalk, and the streetlights held
every inch of the neighborhood,
coral glow sapping any depth from the dark.
Van Morrison will not wear a mask to hold
my toddler. I relent. It’s Van Morrison. The old falcon
ferries us up a hill. What stars? We lay on our backs
to catch light in the leaves, bright homes and businesses
polluting this far. He still drags his hum
now over axes—once, the moonlight
in my shower, the shoreline
in my Honda. Do your remember the maps
you drew with crayon? The ones you printed
off before you left? I could not stir
my voice. I could not imagine
being a father. This magical
burden. My tender ballast. Why haven’t I carved
her height in every empty jamb? She loves
trails and pinecones and knots and how
Van turns a twenty into towers coming
down. We should go. My daughter dupes
tempo, dancing, kicking after what? I have
given up corralling. I sing
lead lead lead lead lead lead the way
my twitchy, golden, belting beacon.
TJ Fuller writes and teaches in Portland, Oregon. His work appears in journals such as Vol.
1 Brooklyn, Hobart, and Juked. His twitter is @fullertj.
Photography by: Priyash Vasava