by Hiwot Adilow

Let me not forget the cliché scents
of my dad, all red: cowboy killers
on his hip, old spice, his Phillies cap
faded and stained with sweat, Arab
oils on his wrists, wot my mother
cooked clinging to his hands.

I want to remember his dimples,
how he’d pour red label into OJ
and say all the ladies used to kiss me
here and here. The mornings,
I’d sit at his bedside and listen
to his dreams of phantom children
crawling beside me on crimson carpets.
He wanted a dozen sons
when the house was bright.

Before time covered us in dust,
I peel back my own scabs to pluck
memories from my waning brain:
shotgun, I stare while he steers,
his left hand still alive, he drums
some tizita on the wheel. While he drives
to Abyssinia he says: daughter, do you know
where you are? In a pink shirt his cane
clicks thru the present and he invites me
for a tour thru his new kingdom,
all fluorescent buzz, death behind a curtain
screaming for help, he grunts while he yells
for the sick to shut up, uses his good arm to rise
and guide me past a staff of daughters who smile
and call him papi, they call me pretty, and finally
he says, of course my last drop, my baby would be,
he walks with me slowly to the elevator,
I don’t want to let go or say I love you this time
when he shows me out, when he says stay good instead of goodbye

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