Memory of Sawgrass
It would sway: dangerous in its innate
cutthroat waltz, even
in the most delicate breeze. My father, sister, and I
would wade through waves of barbs,
sticky grass gripping on to our long sleeve shirts,
cotton sprinkled with late summer pollen,
sweat darkening our jeans.
Precaution was one of few tools to snip the plant.
Blood would emerge: a careless blossoming.
My sister piled the clippings.
Father cut the blades of barbed grass and I
would dig a pit and drop it in.
I sliced the skin between my fingers.
I put the cut in my mouth and sucked:
my life still tastes of iron and salt.
No pain comes without its afterthought.
When the last ray of sun had dulled, father
would light the pyre of trimmings,
living razors; he would bandage me
while my sister watched.
This is how
to apply pressure; how to use iodine
and swab; this is how to wrap gauze;
this is one of many ways death can come.
Take care to remember pain. Learn
to love life, its many sharp, beautiful fronds
and facets. Learn not to clip carelessly: like love
it can grow back. Burn only
what must be trimmed. When the time comes
to bleed, wait for the blood to stall and then
heal one another after I am gone.
The family grill sits underneath the state tree.
It is flowering this time of year: pink and white
crosses blooming to dispatch, pastels chalking
the ground without qualm to the wind’s song.
The family orders me to clean the grill,
rinse it, kindle the spark. There’s meat to cook,
as well as the lowest and purest petals. They,
blackened, brittle, and later bristled off,
will become darkened haloes, tarry flakes, burnt crosses.
My family eats the meat and vegetables fringed
with char and sit around the picnic table.
The flowers once white, charming, carry the weight
of a crucifixion: cannot cry out, from my family’s cruelty.
I raise my voice: I a soft Nicodemus. The grill sizzles
under the dogwood. They savor their meat
and drown themselves in stories, while the desecration
around them is itself a silence heating itself under the skin
of a boy who carves a gospel into his memory,
as if knifing initials into the trunk of a dead tree.
The safety razor was not invented
until early twentieth century.
Yet, men had been sharpening shark teeth since
they first appeared from forests with long beards.
From flint stones to crucible steel, man made
the edge sharper, the tip finite, the slice
closer, nearer to comfort. The slick blade,
no matter the grasp, still had knack for nick.
Blood, cleaned from the face, so un-washable a stain,
would smear the line between clean cut and gash,
between handsome and weapon. I can’t look
at its smirk, its shimmering reflection,
without thinking about the times I’ve longed
to turn its body into a stopped clock hand.
I still see its swift shape masquerading
as hygiene with pivot and slowness to rust.
I still see its glint sparkling murder
like flint and knife. I see an estranged
gleam in my eye when it glides across my chin.
Samuel J. Fox holds a B.A. in Literature from Western Carolina University. Samuel is published in SLAB, Iodine Poetry Review, and Rat’s Ass Review; Samuel is forthcoming in Broad River Review where he was a finalist for the Ron Rash Award. He currently is living in the Piedmont of North Carolina and working on an E.P. of spoken word to ambient music. Find him at https://foxandthevineyards.bandcamp.com/