Provoking a Hole
In his hands it planted the rose bushes.
It dug up the roots of the pines
before the chop, chop, chop of the axe
would sever them and together
we would rip the obstinate creature
out of the ground. It unearthed
the bulbs—the dahlias, the hyacinth,
the gladiolas—to replant somewhere else.
All that immigrant angst making a show
of itself to shine and prove what it was worth.
I oiled it down and hung it on a hook
when it was done with its work.
Now my father’s spade hangs on
the wall of my garage waiting to take on
the world. Today it digs out a fence post
that a winter storm knocked down.
It frames around the edge, takes aim
at the hard clay on the side of the hole,
each blow removing another spadeful.
And I hold on to the handle, that thick
chunk of oak I put all my weight on
to drive the blade in deeper.
I carry out my insult as if a habit
I learned when I was built of reflex.
I was left to spasm every time
my father probed the depths
so that one day I might lash out in kind
except there would be no pride on the line.
My outburst would be learned, a sudden
challenge that’s meant to engage, befriend
—a spar that triggers a signature flinch.
I jab at the hole in the manner of
a gamecock. I’m a damaged diplomat.
I can feel the sport of a shot mounting
as I round out the hole to plant
something in the ground that will hold.
About the Author: Tim Kahl is the author of Possessing Yourself (CW Books 2009), The Century of Travel (CW Books, 2012) and The String of Islands (Dink, 2015). His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, Notre Dame Review, The Journal, Parthenon West Review, and many other journals in the U.S. He appears as Victor Schnickelfritz at the poetry and poetics blog The Great American Pinup and the poetry video blog Linebreak Studios. He is also editor of Bald Trickster Press and Clade Song. He also is the vice president and events coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center.