My sister never washed her face at night.
My grandmother smoothed cold cream
over hers in dutiful faith the makeup
would slide off like dirt on a screendoor
during rain. When I was twelve my father
grew a silver beard, unmatched
to his coal gray hair. My sister’s eyes
always rimmed in black, balls of tar
in the corners like that
of the family cat. Grandmother’s face
smeared with Vaseline – she must
have collected particles of dust in the creases
during sleep. Father shaving it off
when he saw himself in the Christmas pictures
that year. My mother never loved
the mirror, expressed disgust at its faces as if
she were opening the door to discover
the visitor, an enemy neighbor.
I am one year closer to death.
On my birthday my father tells me this,
as we connect the pieces of track
to a super-raceway set, as we click together
each smooth strip to form a figure eight
that swirls across the kitchen floor.
He helps me guide the matchbox racer
through its twisting over linoleum,
its geometric mess some murky hell
into which we might flip. We study
for hours the speeding and slowing,
the skid and the spin, the restless gambling
with God. My father is like a god,
his grip on the joystick leaning in
to the inevitable, the slick swish past
the previously traveled, the one-more mile,
the one-last second. My father and I,
motoring one year closer to death.