The wish is always that we’d walk in,
Give each other bear hugs,
Tight and unencumbered,
Nothing of my body shameful,
That he’d cradle my face in his palms
And smile wide, in awe of who I’ve become,
That I’d go to him twice a year
To help me unknot something of my heart
When it broke.
But my father never could be that—
His Spanish and my English,
His love of tractors, my love of books,
His big family, my nonexistent one.
Though, when I can’t help it,
I must accept that the divide
Was much larger. Immense.
If all we could ever speak were cars and weather.
I buried him years ago
In a grave I’ve yet to visit,
Though in my dreams I walk to it
In silence, undress, curl in the grass,
The headstone my pillow,
And ask him how to extinguish
This wish that won’t die.
José Antonio Rodríguez’s work has appeared most recently in Salamander, The New Yorker, The Missouri Review, and Pleaides. His newest poetry collection, The Day’s Hard Edge, is forthcoming in 2024 from Northwestern University Press. Learn more at JARodriguez.org.