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My father stands before me, wavering from drunkenness, professing

I'm a stupid nigga, wetting my face while his spirit-lacquered eyes pan across me, desperate to know why I want to weave language for a living instead of swelling my fingers fat with labor, bleeding torn flesh stacking boxes on boxes in the graveyard hours. But isn't writing like

stacking boxes, I wan t to say. Fitting words into the empty spaces to make meaning, the laborious task of filing through my mind to eke out the few words that die when spoken, but breathe on the page. And when my eyes become glazed and red-rimmed from staring at the blinking cursor for hours, my back racked by fatigue, my fingers pecking toward arthritis-have I not labored long and hard? The "graveyard hours" is metaphor, yet my father asks what is metaphor?

Be a real man; his eyes darken to some color like smoke coiling around the irises. He wants to know why? Will he understand that Hemingway killed himself for lack of stories to tell? Will language speak for me, braver than Hemingway, telling stories too terrible to tell?

Phoenix - Spring 2003  
Phoenix - Spring 2003  

The editorially independent student literary and arts magazine of the University of Tennessee.