Up Into the Trees

by Philip Jason

I will always remember that night
when you told me you were never going
to die, that your father had been a god

before his retirement. In that
line of work, you said, immortality
is like a healthcare plan; or like

a pension for years of tossing
lightning bolts and impregnating
unsuspecting women with demigods.

I said, anyone I would know? You
said, what? I said, the demigods,
your sisters and brothers, surely

some of them are famous? You
laughed and cracked your knuckles
against the wooly skin of that coconut

I bought for you from a guy
who climbs trees for a living. Him?
I said, the climber, I believe he climbed

the tree with only one hand, his other
wrapped around the ivory handle
of the large rusted tooth he used

to hack the fruit from the palms
and crack the shell.
It sounded like thunder, I said,

so maybe him? But you didn’t want to
talk about your father’s indiscretions
or your mother’s constant sadness

and vengeful tantrums. We watched
the sun as it fell into the ocean,
melting the waves, the seagulls

leaping away from the instability
with bits of stolen foam. I think
I met your father once, I said, he

was there to catch me when I fell
from the tree I climbed too early,
before I knew you could ever want

something from the trees, before
I knew what it was like
to remember things without you.

You laughed again, laughed exactly
like you do when you bleed
from my memories into the place in my head

where I wonder if you kept that promise,
if you’re living the life of forever
somewhere in the heavens,

cracking open stars with the blade-side
of your hand, drinking milk
directly from your mother’s heart.

 

 

Philip Jason’s stories can be found in magazines such as Prairie Schooner, The Pinch, Mid-American Review, Ninth Letter, and J Journal; his poetry can be found in Spillway, Lake Effect, Canary and Summerset Review. He is a recipient of the Henfield Prize in Fiction. 

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