Benjamin Cutler

The Father is Sleeping or Walking

The zone of silence. The zone of loneliness. The zone of love. For me it is the only zone.
                                                                                                                                   -Anna Kamieńska

                     The father is sleeping or walking, and his hands
are numb. As the father sleeps or walks

                     into another warm night or day, the amber
queen fills another boxed comb with pearl-

                     white brood in the humming dark,
her magnificent abdomen

                     dipping dutifully into each deep cell
to kiss its floor; the black

                     tadpoles erupt from their clear jelly and take
to skimming warm mud, insensible

                     to the air above them into which they will leap,
in only weeks, with strange new legs; the silver cat

                     with scabbed ears catches another fat and eyeless
mole, tears its gray throat, and abandons the soft,

                     splayed body at the abandoned garden’s edge;
two riverbank poplars at the father’s childhood

                     home—giants who have given their roots’
earth to countless stormed currents—drop

                     into the river a week before the radiant flowering;
and the old magnolia stands, waits for the hungry

                     black beetles to come to the pale and stainless
flesh of each broad petal to taste gold stamen.

                     While the father sleeps or walks, he takes
a magnolia leaf from a low branch and holds it in a dream-

                     numb palm. This dark leaf is a spear
point, a letter of parting, an apology, a love-

                     bitten tongue, a broken feather
ready for mending—every green and vital question

                     he will not answer. He drops the leaf
or keeps it for his children—who are calling him

                     to wakefulness or home. He answers
five times and still speaks

                     nothing. He now knows, as blood burns
his waking hands, a long and living

                     promise begins with wild silence—



Benjamin Cutler is an award-winning poet and author of the full-length book of poetry, The Geese Who Might be Gods (Main Street Rag, 2019). His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize numerous times and has appeared or is forthcoming in The Carolina Quarterly, EcoTheo Review, Zone 3, and Tar River Poetry, among many others. In addition, Benjamin is a high-school English teacher in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina where he lives with his family and frequents the local rivers and trails.