My Father’s Birthday Is the Day Before Mine

The last train pulses across the pane
and fireflies spark beside the tracks.
Acne’s red wing flames my face:
I can’t take back

this skin. In the other room,
a drugstore Timex synchronizes
with the faucet’s drip. If I squint,
the fireflies align their lives

to map the summer’s migraine
of flowers that were weeds.
You say, but I think
they’re just trying to survive —

cheap bulbs, they burn out in two weeks.
The train rattles as its links shift
and scrape like the dark between days.
From across the continent,

my father texts:
your mother hiked halfway up the hill
behind the cabin / a graceful
mountain goat. Is this love?

Lately, I’ve been writing you letters
that I shred about that blood-orange eclipse —
sleep’s determined murmurs
of eyelid and lash.

The fireflies are sunset’s ash.
I realize I have no means
by which to make you a present of the past,
where my father once cowered

behind the June sunflowers,
bloodied by the dog chain his father
had swung — not at his son,
but at the fear

of being left without one.
The fireflies stutter like an apology.
I would be lying to you
if I didn’t admit I love them.