Primero


SEGUNDO—the name of the father

                         of mi papa. “The Second”

is what it meant

             when I rinsed its Spanish out.

A silly, unwanted name, a tick

                                                    at the tail

                         of a script,

a name with shell fingernails

             sunk in soil,

a signature with a hissing curve

                                        of alcohol, letters

dressed in rags.

When I asked mi papa

Do I really have to call him

                                        abuelo?

What I meant was: I can’t just wring

it out—I need it tossed

in detergent.

Es tu abuelo

primero. Second,

an afterthought,

                         a page ripped

                                        out of a phonebook.

A hand signature

             as a match, mi papa’s cheek

                                        like red phosphorous

             from a powder of memory

             steaming.

Mi papa dug into his jeans and pulled

out a necklace

                                                    of names

from the cracked earth of his pockets.

I was named

after your abuelo—a second

name, the middle name,

a bridge

of crumbs on a white polo.

Y tu abuelo

                         after mi abuelo.

Digging back

                         from his jeans, he held

me like a silver stem

             from the ground. Y tu?

                                                    A first.

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