Albert Abonado


The smell was the last thing to recede

from my father after he brought his boot

down and crushed the skull


of a skunk latched to the tail feathers

of a duck. This is not how I know

him, creeping softly, weightless


before he raised his foot in violence

as he passed through a wet garden,

through a night filled with teeth before he scooped


up the corpse and tossed it into the trash.

My mother complained about the cloud that clung

to him for weeks. There are remedies


that return the skin to its sweetness:

tomato sauce, apple cider vinegar, prayer.

In a field of blueberries, the hoverflies come


for the salt of my mother’s skin.

I came because my father sent me

to find her, worried what the heat can do


after a year of collisions and surgery—

her bucket half-filled with blueberries,

we sat and listened to the sermons


of her favorite Catholic priest play

on her phone when she asked me

about the children I would not have.


I inhaled, then, their skin, the clover they hid

in the folds of their shirts, felt the heat of fingers smaller

than wasps. They trace


the scar at the back of my thumb

with their soft fingernails and ask

for a story. I change the subject, tell them


about the wasp that stung me on the lips

when I passed through the wrong

door, a hum that accelerated towards my mouth.


What did I do next? I looked for the direction

of this desire, found a paper house

that hovered above me, waiting to fall.

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Albert Abonado is the author of the poetry collection JAW (Sundress Publications). He has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Albert teaches creative writing at SUNY Geneseo and RIT. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Colorado Review, West Branch, Poetry Northwest, Zone 3, and others. He lives in Rochester, NY with his wife.