by Zinta Aistars
to my father on Father's Day 2004
You own the colors, open your veins
to paint—the azure cool of dusky dreams,
the blended greens of hope,
white as pure as a lost childhood,
an ochre memory of endless fields:
buttery dandelions among illusions of lives
you might have lived.
Your women brush mantles of hair,
flowing like water across the soft slope
of light-kissed shoulders, or kneel
at the pale edge of mirrored water,
skin like sunlight,
dappled by shadows
the shape of a lover’s hands.
Your forests whisper green secrets,
cupped in hollows between stones
worn by the ages, edges smoothed,
belying the rough of your own worn faith.
A faith tested by stolen lands, a home
broken open and smashed like overripe fruit
left to rot on the cobblestones.
The countryside torn, houses with rooms ripped open
like flesh, ravaged, raped,
foreign armies as assassins
lining up the futures of young men
against a brick wall,
to puncture skulls with the clean
execution of one bullet hole
per dream. Gone. All of it.
Your youth, blasted into the beyond.
Starting over, fresh off the boat,
you painted more boats, lost at sea,
fishermen casting empty nets
for coins of light floating on waves,
always the next one, the next, the next,
curling into foam, dissolving in salt,
a mere vapor in the long day’s heat.
Still, you believed. In a woman
with jade green eyes
and a mantle of dark hair
flowing across her bare shoulder,
stepped down from canvas,
a daughter enfolded like a new promise
in the crook of each arm.
You believe in beauty, the colors of it,
the light and shadows of it,
its transparent qualities, its calm effect
as it flows from your fingertips.
Standing midway on a path
you painted as smooth as you could for me,
as smooth as you knew, so that I too
could believe, and I believe in you—
a father’s fears annulled
in one solitary brushstroke
of midnight blue.