Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California, with his wife. He has worked in electronics and mental health. He has previously contributed to Sheila-na-gig, as well as Heartwood, Rabid Oak, and Brazos River Review.
My father would make a thumbprint,
a smudge of stain on the wood
unwilling to waste the time to clean
a brush, bend and blow to dry it,
enough to judge how grain stood out
and the wood in-between relaxed.
He’d test two at a time, one thumb,
the next, on a trial cut, short
but not too short to distort his impression.
The stain would flower, his imprint
grown larger by the spread
of the stain in the vessels and channels
of the wood, as if some of his blood
had entered the stain and now imbued.
He knew wood, knew tree, copse,
fir and forest, sawdust and plane’s shaving
curling at my shoes. I watched the stain
inflate, widen, gather, then round
a swirl or blemish, set, before turpentine
washed pigment from his fingers.
When I look at the finish years later,
I can see his heart still inhabits.
I wanted daylight to stretch out then get stuck like a clock
with damaged hands, that North America’s June aura
would last into July, August, September
that the fall in temperature could occur but long summer days
would prevail into autumn, literally carry the day
despite the spin of the globe on its axis
but then I thought of the people south of the equator trapped
in the time of winter darkness week after week rising
to streetlight commuting and I wanted them to know
that at eight o’clock at night hummingbirds yet hovered
over agapanthus and cats wandered exhausted
from watching wings, that the most remarkable moths
began to end slumber and looked for my exact doorway
to hover near the faux lamp to remind me of adoration,
that deer that had been hiding in the small arbor
of my neighbor stepped out timidly to cross to where they’d sleep,
that children grew tired in a natural way as the fuel of play
lowered combustion to warm embers that I could finally hold,
that the people south of the equator could know how hard I loved,
how hard the love of my life loved me in the quiet moments
when the sun set and the cacophony of summer with it,
how I had learned to let go the grip on light, to not seize the day
but to give it away, how generosity was meant to endure
and they would know six months later to give it back.