For some, dawn limps in, a gruff,
withered nook—furtive, backdoor,
hangdog, swigging a shot of rotgut;
life, a wincing rut that groans
and pulls a pillow over its head.
My father greeted dawn like a hat
he wore into the day, beneath its rim,
a new beginning, yesterday and tomorrow,
gone and yet to come.
Boyhood mornings smelt of coffee
and burnt toast, oatmeal and juice.
A blessing said, a Bible verse, as my brother
shot me the finger under his napkin.
Dawn tugs at the horizon,
sculpts an orange glow
among the moistened bark
of March trees. First light
rustles pine needles, seeps
edges of bedroom windows
cracked to collect a night breeze.
Today, dawn’s a maple table
patinaed with living, human habits
scored in its surface like a map.
Follow it with fingertips,
a memory brail—
mother’s small hands,
father’s pocket watch beside
his cup—a day’s timed labor
from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m.
At night, it slept on his dresser
as he slept,
of an old house,
waltzing to its ticks.