[my father’s fear is a sentence of stuttered punctuation]

my father’s fear is a sentence of stuttered punctuation

standing up at the back of his neck              colon

2001 is not a space odyssey but

a finger spreading newspaper rows

curiosity through busted blinds


in print

a body pixels  parallel to skyscraper

and smoke on the first day of school

my father cannot unhinge the safety clause of his arm

fast enough


and in print

someone else’s father

who looks like my own

but does not hold his language

gardens at his gas station

heavy arizona sun drench

until he doesn’t anymore

i convince myself they were sunflowers

i convince myself  that his hands were sunken  in  soil

that he hummed

until he didn’t


these the things

i needed to be true


shovel     red life      gravel




my father thanks a god he does not believe in

everyday he was not given

a son


somewhere the metal and sidewalk of profile

still annotate his teenage body

his prayer is his palms at the back of his head

to Dostoevsky and Baldwin in his bag



and in print

my middle school guidance counselor

is quoted at the townhall declining

the proposed Boys and Girls club

echoing a concern about the condo kids definition

the mexican and muslim children who cross

the freeway bridge to learn pray usage


one the children without

two the wrong kind

three  no actually what i meant to say is increased traffic



i ask if this is why my father has told me to hide my spanish

in my backpack

in my pink spacemaker pencilbox

in the milkypen constellation of our middle class

he answers by sending me to the dictionary for the word scapegoat

he tells me they all look the same



we earn belts

at the karate studio down the street

he tells me it is a kind of reading

our dog dies that spring

in the backyard my father sneaks up

on me to see if i remember

to smash what surprises

would break his spine

for my awareness

pushes me ahead with fists out



my father has built me a fortress of books

and perfect grammar

has taught me to guard the windows with

straight A’s and flawless spelling


choose shy over surrender



they see one thing

will see another


proofread everything


i am a cover of mystery and passing

i hold a bouquet of verbs

i am a tongue knot of something i was supposed to say for us




he puts a pen in my hand

hoping  it will save us

he puts a book at my back

praying it will stop

a gun