The Night I Was Born: Slight Return
Al Maginnes

                     I’m a voodoo child, Lord knows, I’m a voodoo child
                                                                    —Jimi Hendrix

The moon did not turn hellfire-red,
                                                                 but the sky did
unfurl a long scarf of stars
to wave above the black and grinding ocean.
Glass chips dulled by salt’s friction
beaded rocky beaches where no one walked
in brawly wind and spits of snow.
My father watched Christmas lights color
the window of a store across the street
and smoked
                 and waited,
the dance of new fathers then. They inked my feet,
wrapped me in a name that itched
like a sweater and I screamed
my single hungry song.
What plans they had for me I couldn’t know.
Below me, a dozen states stretched their arms wide
and yawned.
                 I learned how to breathe,
how to fit my mouth to the nipple,
not the shapes of trees but their names.
My father carried me on his shoulders,
“Walk That Lonesome Valley,” and from my perch
I saw the sky slide cream-white to yellow
to a thin and changeable blue,
changes that happened to the sky
the way the ocean happens to glass, light
happens to windows.
                                                Already things changed
in my young father, in me.
Already a slow fire claimed the moon.

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