Tiffany Midge

Gone, the quiet of midnights’ past.  My father boiled onions whole—
speared from fork to mouth with butter, salt.

Another midnight: pale light crowned his bald head, a moon.
Before him, a cereal bowl with Dog Chow, milk.

In Pattaya, he brought me a pot of rice after a two-day fast, reasoned
it was the utensils that made me sick, not the mango.

I  pretended to want the crisp and blackened centipedes, to gnaw
through bags of crickets, find the green pearls inside.

The peasant-shack cook assured me the meat was pork.  My father
laughed when I pointed to the dog beneath the table:

Tomorrow’s lunch.  I tried to remember a time before Dauk served
us chili and Cokes beneath a canopy of limes

and eucalyptus trees; a time before the howler monkey played chase
with a giant moth.  Gone.

In the airport taxi, my head rested on my father’s shoulder
the last time.  I slept.

Scenes From a Naturalist’s Sketchbook

My father tells me the stars don’t exist,
having burned out year’s ago. These are what remains,
tricks of the eye.  We are standing beneath
a congress of firs lit by stars—
flickering candles in night’s windows.
After my mother dies he tells me
everything still exists, it’s all still alive.
I think of the intrepid current of a Cascades’
creek that nearly drowned me—
the rapids I was saved from banked by stones
each with a name my father knew: Terrigenous,
breccias, shale.
  In the Gulf of Mexico
kerchiefed women, aunties of Jorges and Jose,
peddled giant sea turtle shells to tourists—
my father shrugging them off: Gracious, gracious, no, no.
I think of remote camps, my father leaving
for hours on expedition, returning with a hat
full of berries he swore he’d outrun a bear for.
Nanooch Tropical Gardens, Thailand: My father
chain-smoking Chinese cigarettes beneath
an umbrella of palms, the esplanade full of howler
monkeys and sun bears, an exhibit of giant butterflies.
Everything still exists, it’s all still alive
We net smelt at a Pacific coast beach,
our fingers stained purple from gutting fish,
our faces stinging with salt spray, canvas Keds
drying on a line; tacky residue of campfire
fish on our hands, the meat part smoke, part sweet.

Whatcom Creek

It’s been four years since I’ve seen my father
and here we are taking in the mayhem
like a couple of tourists who’ll later
buy bright, glossy postcards of the salmon
belly-up and gutted along the pier.
He’s still handsome, my father, still smokes
the filter-less cigarettes, year by year
their tar flowering like badly-timed jokes
in his dark lungs.  I used to pray for him
before prayer was futile as these fish
pitching their fruiting bodies into dim
bleary tombs.  This same time next year I’ll wish
for more time.  I’ll wish for redemption,
but only ghosts will rise, I imagine.

Night Caller

The mollusk inching toward my door,
its body a broad wet muscle of rain and ascent
reminds me how all things are possible,
just as the rain foretells certainty

in a language of unquestionable voice.
I hear the night break, the moon
tossing back her hair. I hear the hum
of contentment shuddering in the grass.

The mollusk seeks direction, drinks
in the door’s pool of light, charts
a course for warmth, its horns
pivots of radar, exclamation points,

exquisite attachments puzzling out the smell
of water and storms.  In the last twenty-four hours
there’ve been sloughs of visitors to this porch:
half-drowned spiders, stink bugs, furious horse-flies. 

We’ve discarded them tenderly, others
mercifully tended and killed—unnamed shadows,
unmarked graves, wings and songs put to rest,
lunacies of want laid down.  You turn in sleep,

then wake and tell me about tropical weddings
and masked brides, guests who only speak
the warbled tongue of sparrows, and fall back again—
dreaming your night stories, hosting the night visits,

each with its own small creature,
each with its own grand light.

Tiffany Midge
Tiffany Midge

Tiffany Midge’s book “Outlaws, Renegades and Saints, Diary of a Mixed-up Halfbreed” won the Diane Decorah Poetry Award.  She’s most recently been published in North American Review, The Raven Chronicles, Florida Review, South Dakota Review and the online journal No Tell Motel.  An enrolled Standing Rock Sioux and MFA grad from University of Idaho, she lives in Moscow, Idaho (Nez Perce country) and teaches part time with Northwest Indian College.