by Gaynor Jones
a fissure or split
indentation in the middle of a person’s chin
a deep division
Cleft. As belonging to me, my father, his father before him, their fathers before them. Runs way back in our men, as my father used to tell me while he shaved.
Boy, you could find this cleft of ours nuzzled next to the stock of a Henry rifle, or buried deep between the long legs of a good time girl in an old time saloon. You’ll see.
My father was proud. That dent in his skull meant something to him, though he had no hand in its making. Soon as I was old enough to shave myself - and all that came with it - he would come for me. Head tilted up. Chin jutting out.
Him: Eyes like tar and a hand rubbing the indent at the bottom of his drawn face.
Me: In for some shit.
He would grab me, in that convenient little nook that perfectly fit his thumb and forefinger. Force me towards whatever he needed me to see.
Exhibit A: magazines he’d found under my mattress
Exhibit B: a journal entry I hadn’t torn up enough before burying in the trash.
Exhibits C through Z: scripture.
Then: Firm hands gripping my chin, strong arms turning me.
Now: Loose flesh, weak arms, still trying to turn me.
‘What you two do in your bedroom is one thing, boy, but to bring a child into that. A child.’
My son’s face is perfect. Moon-round. I bounce him on my knee, or pat him after his milk and he looks up at me and I look down at him and it is love. While we play, his small hands reach up to my chin, and vanish in the hairs of my beard.