In Key West, before my father left, he taught me
the proper way to use a knife, to peel a mango.
First, slice a circle where it hooked to the tree.
Then guide the blade against the fat of your thumb
the way you might the zipper on a long dress.
The skin should fall away in curls. Suck it.
In summer, my mother’s glossy pastel kitchen
filled with seeds drying on her counters,
the black BBs of papaya, melon, sugar apple,
the mangoes’ white oblong slugs.
My father owned a nursery. With good dirt
and water he made a living, like magic.
He’s dead, and I’m far from the island that grew me.
Still, there’s almost nothing better than
holding a mango’s wet heft with two hands,
burying my face in, coming away with the sweet
that dissolves fast as cotton candy,
the strings that floss my teeth.
In childhood, I wore a towel with a neck hole
because mango stains more than any food.
I reveled in the stain, the yellow prize,
and the brief moments of my father’s joy.
Nineteen when I committed his body to clay
in that Tennessee town he spent years wanting out of.
For thirteen summers I’ve wondered what to do
with the seeds drying like hairy white skulls on the sink
now that my father is dead, now that I live too far
from the limerock ground that lets a mango thrive.
Without giving up everything I own,
this the only way home.