In the Mosier coffee shop, a man with spiral tattoos serves
drip coffee and pastries the shape of folded flags.
It’s February, and the wind picks spray from the Columbia
and sticks it in that V of skin the jacket doesn’t zip.
The scone, soft with the baker’s waking, holds
the sun of last summer, the pears and filberts
grown in Mt. Hood’s folds, the orchards,
striped contrast to clumps of scrub oak.
My first autumn in Oregon I climbed a tripod ladder
to prune pear trees, learned to direct growth
from a Japanese gardener, his dark eyes
light with teaching.
Three thousand miles behind, I left lessons barked
by my father, to count, issei, nissei, sansei…
before we ate dessert, canned pears soaked in syrup.
Know thy enemy, he said and spooned translucent fruit.
From the Pacific arena my father brought a sword,
shell-shock, and his faith in blue eyes. The flag folded
from his coffin I never saw. What I didn’t know of him
has stuck in the place for speaking, beneath that cold V of skin.