Carroll Beauvais

End of the Wharf, Mobile Bay

Eight hours ago on the other side, I emptied my father 

into this same bay. His ashes were stark 

against the dark green. I’d thought he would sink 

to the bottom, but instead he spread out, 

 

feeling for a wall in the pitch black, looking for the door.  

I threw purple chrysanthemums and yellow daisies in his wake

to make it pretty for the people watching. His every dreg drifted 

farther from the other. A sailboat left the harbor.  

I saw my father fade to dark green.

 

Lying back on the wharf, my friend and I stare into the silent stars, 

knees bent, our calves dangling over the edge. This light we see

could have burned out millions of years ago, it’s impossible 

 

to tell what still exists in the heavens. My friend’s full cheek is silver 

in the glister. She’s already becoming a photograph of the past.  

I dip my feet into the warm, dark water. 

 

Beneath this punctured firmament, my skin 

grows colder. I see our earthly bodies dim, bone dust 

settling to sediment.

The Arsonist as a Father

 

Late July’s heat and early evening still the trees. 

I crank down the truck windows, and the air crowds, 

swells to a huff, while my daughter sulks and twists 

the radio knob violently. She opens and slams 

the glove box, rifles through the center console, 

looking for the evidence she needs 

to condemn me. When I park, she shoves 

open the rusting door then sits, waits for me to lead.  

I lumber past the jungle gym and up the concrete steps

through the fog of smokers, don’t look back

when a man I know from the crack house 

on Texas Street lights her cigarette.  

 

Inside the church hall, I suck the black distraction 

from the Styrofoam cup to fit in with the rest, 

feigning recovery. I could devastate this cup,

crunch it to bits with the one hand, easy. But don’t.

It would scald the people next to me. My daughter, 

eighteen and motherless, is seated beside me 

like a parole officer. She’s come to confirm 

what she already knows: These AA people 

don’t speak to me; we don’t know each other.  

 

When the hour is up and I’ve driven her home, 

she’ll exit my truck, the backs of her thighs 

leaving long wet streaks on the vinyl. 

She’ll see my mouth, that hole, suffer 

with want, and from the driveway, scoff

as I pull away. The black tongue of road 

will put her behind me. Where I’m going 

will devour her for good. Unless it doesn’t.

I’ll be hawked up on her doorstep, again.

The Last Phone Call

 

 

The last time I called, I put it off for a few days,

and then more, waiting till after 7 o’clock 

 

when my minutes were free, 

and it was too late. You’d eaten supper 

 

and were already doubled-over in your chair, 

nose to knees, as if in prayer.

 

The nurse tried to rouse you, held the phone up to your ear, 

and I said, Daddy? And you said nothing.

 

I said, Daddy, it’s me. Are you there?

And you said nothing.

 

And fumbling, I said, Daddy, how was dinner? Was it good?

And you said nothing.  

 

Blackness pitched across the signal, 

the dark wad of silence clotting my throat, 

 

and I said, Daddy, are you okay?  

And you said nothing.

 

In the distance, a piano chord 

played in a low key 

 

perished. A lost bird landed 

in a dead tree. And I said, Daddy.

 

And then the silence did not end.

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THE COURTSHIP OF WINDS

© 2015 by William Ray