-Esperanza and Hope-

 
 
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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 beggars

on the street, look the other way. Most mornings he refuses

to get up for class. It won’t last, Mamá’s faith in him,

his love for her. She lies on the sofa naked, almost absent.