A Lesson from my Father about Electricity

When I wait 
for my father, the stars 

disappear. Only bats 
dart and flutter, 

hungry for the hum 
of mosquitos, thick 

as honey. Their bright 
sting lingers and jumps

like electricity can.
It’s looking for a body.

He didn’t say  
how production
stopped when the volt
distribution panel was
cleaned of calf and hip.
No matter how hot

the summer was, my father
said it was nothing compared
to coke, spelled coal. The way it
penetrated his skin like the breathlessness of asphalt
and the charcoal briquettes he set fire to—

the sizzle and curl of chicken skin
rubbed with paprika, salt, and black pepper.
The acrid spray of vinegar when turned and sealed 
under lid. I stood next to the heat, 
a sticky sheen of smoke,
and I wanted to eat.

Copyright © 2023 by Monica Rico. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 13, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.