Sunday Jun 23

BettsTara Tara Betts is a Ph.D. candidate at SUNY-Binghamton in English/Creative Writing. She is the author of the Arc & Hue. Her libretto THE GREATEST!: An Homage to Muhammad Ali was commissioned by Peggy Choy Dance Company and published by Winged City Press in April 2013. Her poems appear in numerous journals and anthologies, including Callaloo, Obsidian IIICrab Orchard ReviewGathering Ground, Villanelles, and A Face to Meet the Faces. Her prose and critical writing has appeared recently in The Black Scholar and at


Broken during a Move

During a move, something is always broken—
dishes, figurines, toys, panes of picture frames.
The breaking is an onslaught of jagged edges,
cracks, lost handles, missing pieces.
You sweep up splinters and chips. Look closely
at the floor for the winking of fine glass.
You dampen a paper towel to pick up the tiniest
slivers along with once invisible dirt. There
is peace in disposing of broken things.

Ruptures in upright bones, fragmentation of pulse,
becomes less evident as time sweeps them away.
Disorientation from the loss means adjust
because no one cares about the collapsed.
Instead, people should count the teeth
in your whole, white smile. The busted, dead
trinkets disappear to make room for others.

My Father’s Ashes

He told us for years so there was no question.
He never wanted to be buried. He’d heard too
many stories about dead people ending up
everywhere except a casket, another anchor
committing him to this tiny town where he
conceived me and handed out cigars after
my birth. He declared me brilliant then.

I was approaching 39 during a clear July sky,
and my brother and I quietly stood between
prayers and goodbyes. When the officiant
hands me a bag, I kept thinking how small
my father has become. His 6-foot-4 frame,
huge limbs that filled 5X T-shirts reduced
to a small plastic bag, lighter than sand,
almost airy. We are amazed at the ashes,
not gray or white, but light brown, almost
the same brown of him in old photographs
smiling and still alive. When I gingerly

lower my fingers into the bag, I decide
to dip my hand in quickly, scoop the dry
where the hard flecks of dull bone press
against my skin. The wonder of which bones
asks are these the hands that slapped, or
the arms that held me? Are these shoulders
that I rode like small royalty, or the ribs
that rose and fell in sleep, when I slept ,
a baby on his chest, or was it the pelvis
that clattered against my mother to make

me? The thought drifts. I open my hand.
I toss him into the fountain’s edge. I am
careful because the wind cannot take him
in some stray, errant direction. A compass
points one way for him now, but my brother
and I follow routes that he will never see.