in a nursing home
the first time i saw my father cry was in a nursing home.
we sat on the balcony overlooking a parking lot and an airplane hangar.
it was a sunday; i’d forgotten my shoes at church, so i sat barefoot
in my mother’s lap, feet hovering above the dusty ground;
i’d learned in school that dust was made of human skin cells.
the balcony was enclosed and smelled like breath after orange juice;
the nurses gave me some when i asked. it was in a paper carton, like milk.
my grandmother’s hands shook too much to write, so we couldn’t communicate.
she sat, frustrated, her leathery brown skin bunching and hanging
from the bones in her fingers as they ran through
the sparse white hair scraped back on her scalp into a demure bun.
my father tried to hold her hand steady so she could write,
and i looked at the dust as he wept, wondering whose skin lay at my feet.