from Notes on my father

On some weekends, my sister and I
were picked up and taken to an almost suburb
to share a mattress on the floor and watch
Popeye and The Three Stooges. My favorite
Stooge was Shemp: replaced, forgotten.

At that apartment, we learned about clap-on, clap-off lights.

Clap! new cassette, same cartoons.

Clap! three different rhythms of breath.

Clap! this place is too quiet to be home.

I used to have
a dream where
I was leaving
elementary school
and chasing
dad’s car down
the block.

Once, I heard
the car horn
that meant dad
was here to
pick me up
for dinner. But
when I went
outside, the car
was empty,
still running.
I caught the end
of his sprint
across the street,
saw him grab
the neighbor by
his collar as
the man’s girlfriend
stumbled from
the driveway.

Whenever I re-visit my salvage,
I see a shepherd woman herding
sheep into a landfill, holding
rod in each hand. Forgive her: how

she wishes to avoid spoiling
the sheep, how the dump
from this angle looks more
like an open field in which
we can pretend to be free.


Pray for your father,
the shepherd says, if
you want him to come back
home. Pray nothing happens
to him, for he is no longer
right with God.

Despite titles of Jay-Z/
Kanye West songs,
niggas from West Warren
(where I’m from)
and the Southwest Side
(where dad’s from)
don’t go to Paris. So dad
takes us to Chicago, DC,
Toronto, Frankfurt, London.
There’s a big world out there,
son, he says. In each place
I pose for pictures with
statues. This is not a new act.
I have always pretended
to be stone. I have always been
a tourist, everywhere.

Lil’ Wayne tried
to teach me
that fathers are
replaceable, said
about his deceased
I know you can’t be close
to me, nigga, I know
then so soon
called another
man daddy.

I must admit I fill
voids quick, too.
I cling to whomever
lets me rest my body
on theirs.

But, dad, I must remember
we still have time.

I was taught in church
that the word sin means
to believe a lie. If
that is true: how
often and thoroughly
I have sinned.

This poem is want —

“We spend the day arranging ourselves to avoid contact / but you linger on my mouth”

Godzilla’s Love Song

“Ghidorah’s and my first date. We climb the fire escape / to look at the Minneapolis skyline...”


“Brother was mother’s first and favorite. He never talked back. He never went out. His paychecks went only into her account.”