My father put his hands in the white light
of the lantern, and his palms became a horse
that flicked its ears and bucked; an alligator
feigning sleep along the canvas wall leapt up
and snapped its jaws in silhouette, or else
a swan would turn its perfect neck and drop
a fingered beak toward that shadowed head
to lightly preen my father's feathered hair.
Outside our tent, skunks shuffled in the woods
beneath a star that died a little every day,
and from a nebula of light diffused
inside Orion's sword, new stars were born.
My father's hands became two birds, linked
by a thumb, they flew one following the other.