Albert Abonado

Remedy

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.