Father's Love Letter

—for Eliodoro Herrera

My friends were always afraid of you

With your raspy hel-lo  and seldom guttural
good-bye, you brandished muscles
of bedrock and hands trained for boxing.

They thanked God if the newspaper
curtained your face,  much
better than the thud-thud-thud
of your hands
clobbering the sand bag
that rumbled the beams
from the basement, and all we could feel
was the house        the whole house quaking,
very foundation.

If I asked you a question
you would wring out a burring half-whisper:

The night before Mother's funeral
when the women had gone to their beds
you took your sons close,
and a new-born voice        burst
from the broken dam in your throat:

You cursed and you blessed
You passioned and you sublimed
You bombasted and you pontificated
You even silver-tongued

Didn't get to sleep until you
your grandiloquence.

A few days after the funeral, in a box
marked "IMPORTANT PAPERS," I found a letter
you had written to Mother.  
It was still in the envelope and postmarked 1962
ten years into your marriage.
You called her mi viditamy little life.
You called her luceritofirst star of night.
Your words in Spanish rang:

I can't live without you, my little life.
Come home soon,  first star of night
Bring back my daughters, bring back my sons.
I miss them so, and live only to see them
here 'round my ankles,
to hear their laughter and singing
in such beautiful English,  to know
they are safe...
I can't live without you, my little life.
Come home soon, first star of night

*Originally published in New Zoo Poetry Review
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