Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
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My Father’s Language

He doesn’t understand the texture of papaya,
double rs, or the difference between ser and estar.

Women’s thighs confuse him. He drills students,
chews gum, drinks maple syrup in the bathtub.

From the hotel window his voice whistles by palm
trees, stirring centurial dust that sticks to skin.

Women pay to stare at his tailored shirts, hay hair,
lips, swollen or full. Mascara, caked into clouds,

predicts future storms. Mamá soaks in fountains, rubs
her breasts with Neroli oil. They married in Alabama,

during her year abroad, a semester of grits, beauty
contests, Venezuelan men. Father doesn’t understand

my mother’s rage, her pride, her morning scowls. Most
nights, it’s impossible to breathe, impossible to share

the small room, what’s left of the money. I pass gamines
on the street, look the other way. Most mornings he refuses

to get up, go to class. It won’t last, Mamá’s faith in him,
his love for her. She lies on the sofa naked, almost absent.    

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