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FELICIA ZAMORA | Upon Never Meeting My Father

My father holds quartz in his hand, Whittle it sharp enough, you could cut your

Achilles. He snickers & I watch with wet eyes, closed, humid musk permeates

the horizontal of my body laying among dewy corn, knees & wrists & thighs

still & silent as—The dead, he says, flip open their eyelids in their coffins to chuck

damnation back at the living. He flicks his fingers into my face quick, quicker,

as if he’s casting a spell; I do not move, do not flinch. He does not know

which of us is the dead in this equation. I have no heart to tell him.

He combs my hair with thumbs; he combs my hair with scents of a hundred

boxelder bugs just before dawn; he combs my hair with pliers, pulls out

mattes of hair, follicles like onion bulbs says, Your grandmother Petra lost her two

front teeth at 37, turns from me & I know his back means we are lineage in

pieces. I run my tongue over grooves of a smile, hidden between closed lips.

Below the lip of the forest, he holds my hand, lifts me over the bramble, lets

the thorns slice & tear at my ankles & shins. Blood binds you, his snort echoes

with the sheep grunts & exhaust pipes from the old highway, & he licks his

knuckles as if the earth sticks like sinew between his incisors, & I pray

to the June bugs in July he doesn’t know what he’s saying, doesn’t understand

geometry & magic & a spinal cord in quaver of a cell it never knows a cell in

tonal scrape & doesn’t know how limbs of a mulberry tree are never meant

to hug his daughter’s flesh to sleep, how milk & blood sour in all this heat.

Felicia Zamora is the author of six books of poetry including, I Always Carry My Bones, winner of the 2020 Iowa Poetry Prize forthcoming in 2021, Body of Render, winner of the 2018 Benjamin Saltman Award from Red Hen Press (2020), and Of Form & Gather, winner of the 2016 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize (2017). Her poems appear in Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day,

American Poetry Review, Boston Review online, Georgia Review, Missouri Review Poem-of-the-Week, Orion, The Nation, and others. She is an assistant professor of poetry at the University of Cincinnati and the associate poetry editor for Colorado Review.


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