1530 c/o Ben Spivey

First Snow

My father buried himself on the side of the road.

Reaching his fingers into the soil, he pulled a plot of earth over his old shoulder, first covering his face, his nostrils, down to his feet.

His fingernails kept growing, painted like a rainbow. As time passed, as it often did, his nails grew across the road. For many years we cut the nails, chipping the paint.

Each morning before commuters with coffee and fresh papers drove their souls to the market places, the tallest buildings, serving milk, oranges, grapes, making clocks. We cut his nails.

The meat of his toes rotted into flowers, red, blue. People would smell them, love them, pollinate them like bees.

His face was a skeleton; the rims where his eyes once rested, empty eyes, now emptier with nothing, earth growing though the holes. Earth unaware he ever lived.

His afterlife hidden from time.

He kept growing, always in the middle of the night's short breath; we cut and cut, wearing skin that matched the charcoal night. Never seen, ever. We did our job, mouths shut, hiding teeth. Winter came, and from his tethered beard we made coats, knowing he loved us once, knowing our work was meaningful; the ghosts of his seed.

The first snow in many years; we slept in the dunes of our mother, there was no warmth left in her breasts.

She would sneak out, before we woke, to paint his nails.

We curled up in her folds, nursing, forgetting space, looking at our own hands, watching them grow, looking at love.

The snow kept falling. It stuck to my father's caved chest, it covered his nail. It made my mother's bones ache. She crawled near a pile of leaves, knocking rocks together, trying to make a fire.

We watched from above, holding an umbrella.

In a moment so dull, the rocks collided at the correct angle, sparks flew, catching flowers and fields of wheat completely on fire, melting the snow, drowning the grapes, the orange juice, the clock makers. For the first time in our lives our father's bones tore apart.

Mother swam for as long as she could. The colours on his nails slithered separately through the flood, and we wept, and wept, wept as the water rose.