Letter to My Father

• February 2014

Father
the A train is late again

Only moments to spare
and I find myself thinking of you
penciled tall in my memory
looming a full five feet from the ground
the rain pelting into me
slicking strands of hair to my aching neck
urging me to hold you responsible for the aborted weddings
the whispered stories about my mother
the gaping secret she tried to take with her to Canada

I feel it now
digging into my memories
infant bruises bleeding mud puddles if I pause
for more than a Manhattan minute
inking my pen with nostalgia
mocking my accent in America
the immigrant chewing the chalky flesh of an imported mango

On days like this you invade this need I have for women
to swallow air with them
breathing backs curved taut against frightened bellies
silver spoons slipped easy into each other
reflecting the fury of the faces that are never quite sure
why they fit together so well
why the rightness of that geometry is so hard to defend

On cold days like this
I yearn for the space between my grandmother’s knees
the ancient smell of the amniotic soothing
as she pulled the tangles from my hair
with you
it was always winter
your white skin thin and yellow
showing me the ice inside

On gray days like this
I want to make you see that I am
an excellent housekeeper
—hear me speak out
for little girls
—know
that I consort with rampant homosexuals
to taste the sorrow of women
who have not yet found their voices

Beneath this thin sheet of ice—
I want to beg you
look close at the girl who moves with the grace of a duck
ankles turned in just like you—
shoulders never quite straight
look now, Father—
for soon, she will be gone

This girl loved by men
who gave of themselves
in bracelets and blood and being
walked in unholy places because they believed in me

they never quite measured up to what I imagined you to be

men always too sensitive
or too brash
wanted too much or too little
always fell short of your
rejection/money/spent/regular
exact figures unsure—
I collected the stenciled square
on the first of every month
carried it careful
a delicate confetti flake
caressed it
fleshy thumb against flat paper
until your signature was almost invisible
—the bank cashed it anyway

Everybody knew
Father
I know you will never be proud

And I might someday stop
trying to make you out of this lettered train
rushing across the torn and twisted tracks
of this runaway daughter’s recollection

Till then
there is much to be done
this city is moving fast
and me?

I’m doing the best I can to keep up

 

Staceyann Chin is a Jamaican-born, Brooklyn-living, woman-loving writer/poet, political activist, and performance artist. She is the author of the memoir The Other Side of Paradise (2009).

 

Related Articles