Albert Abonado


Either my father makes the sign of the cross on my wrist with ginger or with garlic.  One


            of these cures fever. One of these is not Catholic. I can’t decide. I close


my eyes. I taste the garlic again, the ginger, the heat of my father’s fingers


            in my mouth. I picture him holding my wrist—And in his other hand?


                        Not garlic this time, but his tooth. Where does a father


            keep all the teeth he loses? He leaves this one in my pocket. I press


            the tooth into my chest, make it into a new heart. None of this


is true. I start over. This time with ginger. This time I am in bed. I can see


            the squirrel by the window with the bread it retrieved


                        from our trash. I call to the squirrel, but remind


                                    myself this part is also a lie I use to find my father: the squirrel,


                        the bed, my angry forehead when my father enters


            the room and presses the back of his hand against it.


I tell him slow down. I want to smell the soil under his fingernails. I can’t see


            my father’s face when he prays. That too is eroding. I replace his face


                        with more hair, with chicken feed and leather, with salt water


            and goat eye. He holds my hand this time with my palms faced


                        up as if I am about to catch rain. He squeezes


                                    around the wrist. It hurts until I remind myself


            there are no nerves in my memories. I must have seen


                       him do something like this before.  Not the bedroom


                                    but the kitchen, maybe, or the backyard with its crabapples


                                                            and sparrows, with the bitter melons climbing


                                                  into our neighbor’s yard.  I need to start again


            and admit this is all wrong:


                                                 My father, the ginger, the smell


                       of vinegar. No, in the beginning, my father was a root


            I extracted and carved over and over until I recognized his face.

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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.