Father by Carlos Andrés Gómez

by Vanessa

“I.

In the basement of the crack house     I used to visit
as an outreach worker              on 121st street in Harlem,
I was convinced           He            refused
to travel north of 96th.             I wrote a letter
to Joanna on her mission         in Taiwan, detailed
each irrefutable            piece of evidence         proving
we are all,                                 in fact,                          alone.
Told her about             the nine-year-old orphan
forced              to sell               her body
for three years                          before ending up         just off
Times Square,              discarded         in a dumpster.
I told her about                        the eldest son
who answered              a burglar’s call              and was shot,
paralyzed         from the waist down.               I asked her
about drought              and famine                   and endless
civil wars—what lessons          does His book
refuse?

“II.

When her heart rate     dropped by half                 in less
than a minute,              the population             of our cramped
hospital room              tripling             in a handful of seconds,
I grasped for                anything           that would keep me
upright.            At first,            the wall:           cool and steady,
demanding my body        ascend beyond         what seemed
possible.                Then,                      nothing,
no one.            I stood             in the waiting room
of the O.R.                  waiting             to be called in,
to find out if                          my child                 had survived.
I spent each second                 trying to pull tiny shoe-coverings
over my too-large feet.             I confessed      every wrong
of my life               to an empty, over-lit room             of steel
and sterile instruments             that all        reflected back
distorted                      versions of myself.       I fumbled
for any prayer              I could remember, hoping
that I had all along been           mistaken          about the hollow
blackness         of the infinite sky.                    I never wanted
so badly                       to have been wrong
about anything             in my life—
and then              a   disembodied
voice            called out,           seemingly only to me—
a tiny growl         at first                          that blossomed
into a wail dwarfing     any thought     my mind
could       possibly          hold,                  any faith
I’d ever been                so foolish            to claim.”