He forgets that he used to call me mariconcito-
that I harbored years of hatred toward him
while hoping to find my real father. My
childhood memories of him reminding me
I was my mother’s son, not his. I tried
to poison him once and scattered sharp nails
inside the shoes in his closet. By the time one
of his sons died of AIDS I was already lost
in contempt for the man I blamed for everything.
There was the time I was in love and he met my 
boyfriends. Now he forgets to go to the bathroom

or where he is. I help him walk slowly
outdoors to step outside the prison cell that is
the tiny apartment with no windows in which
I grew up abused by both of them. He barely
understands. His fate has been torture. I know
that I cannot be his savior. I used to pray for
him to die but here he is slowly fading. In his
eyes I see that he learned to love me and wishes
he could take it all back. He is unable to recall
those drunken nights and hateful words. I should

do the same. I left a long time ago but he still
remains haunted by the little boy who wanted
to belong. Like him, I want to forget that we
made mistakes and caused so much pain. I need
for both of us to remember how he taught me
how to ride a bike and how to swim and told
me, better late than never, that he loved me and
was proud of all I had done. I have to help him
settle into his favorite chair and let him know that
I forgive him. There is a place somewhere where
he will call me hijo and I will know him as my dad.


Paso Padre

Se olvida que me llamaba mariconcito— 
que albergué años de odio hacia él
mientras esperaba encontrar a mi verdadero padre. 
Memorias de la infancia, 
él recordándome que era hijo de mi madre, no de él. 
Una vez intenté envenarlo y puse uñas afiladas 
dentro de los zapatos en su armario. 
Cuando uno de sus hijos murió de sida yo ya estaba perdido 
en el desprecio por el hombre al que culpé de todo.
Hubo un tiempo en que estuve enamorado y conoció a mis novios. 
Ahora se olvida de ir al baño o donde está. 

Le ayudo a salir afuera, a caminar despacio, 
a que salga de la prisión que es el pequeño apartamento 
sin ventanas dónde crecí abusado por los ambos.  
El apenas entiende. Su destino ha sido una tortura. 
Sé          que no puedo ser su salvador. 
Solía orar para que muriera, 
pero aquí se está desvaneciendo lentamente. 
En sus ojos veo que aprendió a quererme 
y que desea poder recuperarlo todo.  
Es incapaz de recordar esas noches de borrachera 
y palabras llenas de odio.

Yo debería hacer lo mismo. 
Me fui hace mucho tiempo, 
pero todavía  lo atormenta el niño que quería pertenecer.
Como él, quiero olvidar que cometimos errores
causamos tanto dolor. 
Necesito que ambos recordemos 
como me enseñó a andar en bicicleta 
y cómo nadar y me dijo mejor tarde que nunca que me amaba 
y que estaba orgulloso de todo lo que yo había hecho. 
Tengo que acomodarlo en su silla favorita 
y dejarle saber que lo perdono. 
Hay un lugar donde me llamará hijo 
y lo conoceré como mi papá.

Copyright © 2013 by Emanuel Xavier. Originally published in Nefarious, by Rebel Satori Press. Translation copyright © 2021 by Emanuel Xavier. Originally published in Poemas Seleccionados de Emanuel Xavier, by Rebel Satori Press.

for Aya, September 2021

Be kind to her. She’s eleven & already
wants to turn you back. She wished this
after she squeezed a drop from her index
& read me the number. She always insists
I close my eyes & guess
what her blood is saying—
sometimes I’m wrong & sometimes not.

I kiss the tiny tears on her fingertips.
I kiss her arms & thighs before the insulin.
When I ask her to inject herself, I’m asking her to live
without me, & she knows it. When her legs trembled,
& I soothed with “I’m here, I’m here,”
she reminded me: “But you can’t do anything.”
Perhaps she meant “undo.”

Who am I kidding. Time, I demanded your undoing too,
that first night in the hospital before dawn,
when I woke up having forgotten, then remembered
where I was, what had happened.
The neon corridor light, the nurses’ chatter,
the potassium’s slow burn in my daughter’s vein.

Time, I know
I can’t reason with you. You go on and on.
Instead, I’m wishing her
astonishing slowness, softness
inside the arduous & unfair. Like this:

the dog’s limp, the cold coffee, the struggling
baby bougainvillea, the winged ant on the floor,
the half-eaten sandwich, the tenderness
of the 5am light, the daily departures,
the basil plant’s shadow on the wall,
& her hair, the swing of my love’s hair
as she runs, shaking her head
left & right, left & right,
how she always ran like this, always ran
as if swaying, No, No.

Copyright © 2022 by Zeina Hashem Beck. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 21, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.