I am better blind my grandmother declares,
squints to seal off what shortened light
remains of autumn, the solstice
both the omen of winter
and long days to return.
Her hands pour through the grain
pulling hardened mutated heads
finding the malformed hairs,
pinches them aside.
Join me, she says, your hands
can find what your eyes may miss.
Even with singed kernels,
her fingers feel scars
of heat inside the chaff.
My oldest daughter edits text with fingers
tracing over words, as if her mind
created Braille bumps of the whorled
letters, detecting overused adverbs
and clunking nouns, the jejune adjective.
Her lips synch in whispers as she reads
aloud, in the manner we chastise children
to not do, to keep their lips from motion
while the alphabets parade in noisy wonder,
at first a straightforward declarative sentence,
then paragraph sculpted out of the wet clay of words.
My son locates by bird’s eye view,
sees blocks, buildings, streets like a hawk,
veers from the selected routes,
has a nose for the uncongested,
the shortcut on the county road
or raceway by the river
that others forego, loves the grit
of the backside of buildings,
the walls tattooed with sprayed paint,
the unobstructed way.
In his room late at night
his fingertips trace county maps
for contours, watersheds,
absorbing routes, paths.
After a new storm obliterates trails
my horizontal reckoning of place
and space fails, but like one with wings,
my son knows which way to wander.
I trust him for the way.
My youngest climbs to perch on the limb
of my shoulders to play with my hair,
first curling with her finger
then taking a strand to make it stand
like a magician might with a rope
into the dark envelope of the stage.
She tells me she knows everything about me
now that she sits taller than me,
can mess my hair or make my face
as she wishes, that she is now the giant
in control, and all my fatherhood
comes into question, guilt
and fear swell in my chest,
this day has so little light
and I feel I have stolen what little it had,
so I let her play.
I will be gentle, she says, like you,
and for a while I am the child
learning from a greater power.
In thought we do not fear the solstice
yet my wife believes our cells
grow anxious, sleep on the turn
and wake in the toss of the light’s deprivation.
We bed in darkness, rise in darkness,
work in darkness. At night I squint,
search to find the doorway to our bedroom.
Better she says, to close your eyes,
to run your hands over hallway walls
and let your body guide you.
Here, she says, taking hand to hip,
begin with this.
Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California, with his wife, and his friends drought, fire, flood, and earthquake. He has contributed to Heartwood, ucity review, Red Wolf Journal, Monterey Poetry Review, and Tiny Seed Journal.