The Last Time I Saw My Father in Prison

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

I was dressed in red, as if for Christmas.
A child like a ribbon of blood
unspooling into the gray room—

dancing and tripping
behind her older sister over to her father.
Following her lead in how

to say Hello, father.
Age five and stumbling
over the word father.

Or would I have said dad, or daddy?
Words so foreign it’s difficult
to write them.

So little remains
of this memory: my face folded
into my mother’s floral skirt.

But I was a daring child,
I let my father pick me up
and set me down, pass me

around to his friends
like a curly haired doll.
One of them tried to teach me chess.

I wanted to be a piece that moves
backwards too. He told me
I was all of them—

the ones that inch forward
the ones that sacrifice,
that eliminate, that chase the king

all across the world.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020