What My Father Said

By DIANA BABINEAU

You go where you belong, my father says to me,
ten years old, listening at bedtime to his story

about how he once was mugged in Brooklyn
in 1974, a small, polite Canadian

trying to buy gas and a Coke. Like here, he meant,
in this neighborhood, where crime is low, a 94%

white suburb in Connecticut,
where the poorest homes are decently lit

apartment complexes,
at night, only mildly rustling with ruckus

and weeds. Like here, where everyone
looks the same as everyone

else but me, my siblings.
Like here, in his pale arms holding

me as I cry stupidly over
what he had to endure—the horror

of losing your wallet!—
not knowing yet

that he and I have different
things to lose. That my body, brown against

these ivory sheets, washed and pressed
by my mother’s brown hands, is

not the same. That my grasp of the world
is yet too small for me to know where a girl

like me belongs. Where should I go?
I ask him. How will I know

when I’m there?

 

Diana Babineau is the managing editor of In These Times and a consulting editor for the Kenyon Review. She copyedits and proofreads books for the University of the West Indies Press, and holds a BA in English from Amherst College. She lives in Chicago.

[Purchase Issue 17 here]

What My Father Said

Related Posts

Image of book cover

Kazakhstani Poet Aigerim Tazhi in Translation

Aigerim Tazhi
A shaggy cactus in the window / catches on the drape. A stinging / spine in the hand. Along the wall. / Don't step into a moonbeam, / Don't tread on a house-elf / Or any other living thing. / In the newborn darkness / Pushing away dreams and shadows, / Sit on a sofa, keep still...

Graffitied diamond

A List of His Flaws

PETER MISHLER
Single-headed. / Flowering inwardly. / Barely felt in the birth canal... / Cupped like a handful of sea uncertainly held. / Carried fire to the human encampment. / Herod in boyhood. / An herbicide. / Given name known to the weapons inspectors. / Anchorite.

Cover of John Freeman's "The Park," a black and white photo of park benches and trees

April 2020 Poetry Feature: Poems from John Freeman’s THE PARK

JOHN FREEMAN
Every Sunday belfry bats of dread / flapped in the day’s corners— / I raised my head at 25, at 30, then 35, / as the sun arced down, always / wretched by the coming dark. / I assumed it was the awakening / singular to humans: / one day, that day would be the last.