For Dad 

By Tianni Montgomery


I remember the times you’d teach me karate

in the backyard with mother’s reluctant approval.   

The yard yellowed from neglect of the tender touch

of the summer’s warmth. The grass padded the soles 

of our feet as you prompted me to ball up 

my tiny hand with your own. 

I watched as mine disappeared beneath the flesh.

I felt the heat escape from your body

that calmed the cold wind that nipped.  


My fists converged

        into your wide and cracked,

               peeling palms 

                      caked with day’s long work,

but your feet always

stuck close to the earth. 


I wanted my fists to obliterate

all the barriers between us,

I saw how the war remained wedged in the pupils of your eyes. 

I know you pretended it didn’t affect you.

               I striked with my foot,

                             I’m too weak to reach.

You’d smile and look down,

towering over me.


                      You reminded me of a tree trunk


Those days our bodies sliced 

through the still air

before the movement started to cease.

And the grass padding our feet

transformed into hospital beds consoling

your tender back. And the pressure

of my fists colliding into your roughed palm 

morphed into IVs attached to your wrist.

by strangers in white who only see you

for what’s metastasizing 

within the confines of your mind.


I stand close

on the other side 

of the curving lines

etched in your palm

to be a reminder 

for when you stood

planted to the ground.