in his closet, my grandfather kept a box of wind—
or rather, the machinery to pulverize wind
into dust on a graveyard of numbers: handheld anemometer;
a telltale that was merely red yarn taped to a stick,
the better to knit the air; a compass afloat
on its queasy sea. i thought his cigarette smoke
would be enough to point and say thataway,
but he’d stand on the shore, scanning the ripples
for shifts, squinting at some distant flag.
he saw his life as a rhumb line, the direct route,
and when he said it looks like rain,
he was usually right. roosting in the perch
of his porch, smoking his pall malls,
he said my father always tacked pell-mell,
coasting into inextricable corners. he thought
the air was a tool with which you could hone
your life; he thought the best buoys were permanent.
he died. the wind was from whichever direction
is best to scatter ashes. cleaning the house,
i found the anemometer, and held it like a relic
or an idol. the styrofoam pellet in its glass tube
balanced on zero like a bear on its ball.
dead calm. i surveyed the closet’s dark sky.
looks like rain, i said to my father in the foyer.
he turned up his palm, weighing the air.
it rains hardest when i bury my dogs, he said.