After James Lord Parker
By Sarah Hilton
I get that it’s hard to process that I am going to marry your daughter. But if I could explain my case, what I’d want to say is: I am bringing to her this handful of birdseed. Or if that isn’t enough, then there’s also this spoon, this wooden spoon from my Yiayia’s kitchen to place on our lowest shelf.
And I know, you must be thinking this is silliness to be bringing her these things—this pile of food that’ll sooner be turned into bird shit and this piece of oak carved into an instrument for cooking. But let me just say that when I give your daughter these things, I’m giving everything I’ve ever known. Love only came to me in handfuls growing up, so small like on Family Day weekends or over the holidays when my own dad took me down in the Rouge Valley. Gave me just enough feed to fill one palm, and then so quickly scattered over the ground, my palm suddenly turned into the size of a valley.
When I stood with my hands cupped like that with his hands around my hands, it felt like nothing; nothing until the cast off into the brush into the trees of jays and sparrows where suddenly everything he’d given me this pile of nothing in my hands became a scatter of wings and wind fingers spread his smile wide open. I think about that motion how he showed me to feed the birds and I know now that he was teaching me then how to love.
And I realize I’ve talked more about my dad than myself, and I’ve completely abandoned the spoon in this spiralling disaster of an explanation, but seeing you here on your porch in the dead of night I can’t help but think of how you would’ve walked my love up these steps so many times. Maybe she was half asleep, so small, a fraction of who she is now carried up in your arms and maybe that dove in your oak tree—yes that big plump one at the top—maybe it was here all these years watching over you. And I just want you to see maybe love comes in more places than one. Maybe love is more than just man and woman. Maybe it comes from the stir of your grandmother’s spoon resting in her arthritis-ridden hand as she insists that you’re hungry.
I guess when you really get down to it what I want to say is…my heart is pinned back like a frog: exposed and bursting, with nothing left to lose because right here along the incision your daughter has my heart extracted. And when I come to tell you that I am marrying your daughter with this seed in one hand and a spoon in the other what I really want to say is: here are my upturned hands, they are giving my life.
Sarah Hilton is a queer poet from Scarborough, whose work is currently featured or forthcoming in Contemporary Verse 2, Hart House Review, FEEL WAYS: A Scarborough Anthology, Cypress Poetry Journal, Ithaca Lit, and elsewhere. She is a Master of Information student at the University of Toronto’s iSchool, and she is currently compiling a collection of poetry. Her pieces in Mnerva Literary Journal speak to the personal boundaries she’s had to put up for herself in familial relationships, as well as the boundaries she’s had to overcome in relation to her sexuality.
Photo credit: Ali Kazal