by Iris A. Law
My father wears the night sky on his back,
red ribbons to nebula glow.
Petechiae orbit his torso.
From the Latin: broad network
of needle bites, tiny eruptions
the skin. He punches
a thumb through wormholes, digs
at the itch till the milk
Sliver of soap,
He shakes out his robe.
From the armscyes,
* * *
Scientists have documented
the life of a star. The ending
all blood-bright flash.
Siren rings swallow
the fading heart.
When the warmth of the body is
gone, it continues to give off light.
Brash blink in the hungry quiet, flare
in the telescope’s beam.
Deep in the frozen core,
still twists and coughs.
The matter resists the rending
for as long as it can.
* * *
When I lie down in the dark, I talk
to my holes in the sky. Sometimes
I think I can see their old starstuff.
That last swirl of strawberry dust,
still damp with cinnamon crumbs.
The shadow of warmth still pulsing
behind the cold scar.
Galaxies of shed
atoms, the faces of the saints.
in the outer matrix.
I trace them.
My father, full of stars.
to my younger brother, still standing beside our father’s bedside
dear january light, dear star in my scuffed green sky,
the years wear loose on your shoulders. moss combs the oaks, the saplings we planted
years ago, their calloused trunks now grown into the sky. like them, we have survived. the
lichen sets deeper into our skin. our souls overwinter to weather the snow.
how soft the winter seemed when we were children. the sky shed its milk, quick as a red
bird’s hum. we packed cold daylight between wet gloves, ran hollering into the cackling
pines. a stick and a promise. pink of chapped fingers. the sun slunk back to its den with fur on its lips.
dear brother, to keep watch is to noodle a love song. to pick out the strain of a line, stitch it beneath the root. your heart, too, has muscled with the keeping. dear dad, you write on his death anniversary, i am still here waiting.
dear brother, i’ll write you a treble line. we’ll strike with our blades at the ice, twin shovels
sounding, descant and melody pulling the phrase to the end of the drive. when you’re ready, i’ll brush the sleep from your face. i’ll meet you on fawn-light feet, strum you a new teal sky.
Iris A. Law's work has appeared in journals such as the New England Review, The Margins, and Waxwing; has been honored by Best of the Net; and was included in the landmark anthology They Rise Like a Wave: An Anthology of Asian American Women Poets (Blue Oak, 2022). Her chapbook Periodicity was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013. She previously served as managing editor for The Adroit Journal and cofounded Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry, which she edited from 2009–2022.