On Fridays he'd open a can of Jax After coming home from the mill, & ask me to write a letter to my mother Who sent postcards of desert flowers Taller than men. He would beg, Promising to never beat her Again. Somehow I was happy She had gone, & sometimes wanted To slip in a reminder, how Mary Lou Williams' "Polka Dots & Moonbeams" Never made the swelling go down. His carpenter's apron always bulged With old nails, a claw hammer Looped at his side & extension cords Coiled around his feet. Words rolled from under the pressure Of my ballpoint: Love, Baby, Honey, Please. We sat in the quiet brutality Of voltage meters & pipe threaders, Lost between sentences . . . The gleam of a five-pound wedge On the concrete floor Pulled a sunset Through the doorway of his toolshed. I wondered if she laughed & held them over a gas burner. My father could only sign His name, but he'd look at blueprints & say how many bricks Formed each wall. This man, Who stole roses & hyacinth For his yard, would stand there With eyes closed & fists balled, Laboring over a simple word, almost Redeemed by what he tried to say.