Things My Father Gave Me (Which I Never Asked For)

by M. AYODELE HEATH

for King David Heath

1

Life. A home plate. A backyard with a pitching mound. A split-finger fastball, a slider, a curve. How to break in a glove. When to slide head first. A family name to uphold. Open arms.

2

Time. A Huffy Bike. How to crack pecans. A sandbox. How to piss. How to be a rock. When to till the Earth. How to make a fist. When to fight, when to smile. How to trap a rabbit. How to catch a liar. How to speak when White people are present. (How to talk when White folk ain’t.) The difference between a flathead, a Phillips head, and a hard head. A roof over my head. Room to grow.

3

How to shoot a free throw. When to call a foul. How to drive. A high-top fade. How to ask out a lady, how to let her be a woman. How to use a level. How to keep your cool. When to be cool. Cool.

4

A pimpstroll. How to smoke out wasps. Where to get good fish. Funk & Wagnalls. When to ask for help, when to give it. How to speak up. A love of brown. Talbotton. How to mow the lawn, to hammer, to saw. How to change a tire, when to change the oil, how to handle change.

5

How to tie a tie. How to buy a suit. How to earn an honest dollar. How to lead, how to follow. How to read the spread. When to swallow your pride. How to raise a fence. How to use a knife for a pencil sharpener. When to shoot a gun.

6

How to shake a man’s hand. How to look him in the eye. A thirst to learn. A book case. Muscadines. Nights to dream. Dreambooks. Reasons to cry. Dark skin. Strong teeth. Full lips. Blood. Two brothers. How to care for elders. How to honor them. How to admit when you’re wrong. How to apologize before the funeral. How to love—yes—and how to always come Home.

M. AYODELE HEATH is a graduate of the MFA program at New England College. Recipient of fellowships to Cave Canem, Summer Poetry at Idyllwild, and the Caversham Center for Writers & Artists in South Africa, his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in publications such as Crab Orchard Review, The New York Quarterly, Callaloo, Mississippi Review, Mythium, Chattahoochee Review, and the anthology Poetry Slam: the Competitive Art of Performance Poetry. His awards include: a 2009 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize in Poetry and an Atlanta Bureau for Cultural Affairs Emerging Artist grant. He lives and writes in Atlanta.