I. In the basement of the crack house I used to visit as an outreach worker on 121st street in Harlem, I was convinced He refused to travel north of 96th. I wrote a letter to Joanna on her mission in Taiwan, detailed each irrefutable piece of evidence proving we are all, in fact, alone. Told her about the nine-year-old orphan forced to sell her body for three years before ending up just off Times Square, discarded in a dumpster. I told her about the eldest son who answered a burglar’s call and was shot, paralyzed from the waist down. I asked her about drought and famine and endless civil wars—what lessons does His book refuse? II. When her heart rate dropped by half in less than a minute, the population of our cramped hospital room tripling in a handful of seconds, I grasped for anything that would keep me upright. At first, the wall: cool and steady, demanding my body ascend beyond what seemed possible. Then, nothing, no one. I stood in the waiting room to the O.R. waiting to be called in, to find out if my child had survived. I spent each second trying to pull tiny shoe-coverings over my too-large feet. I confessed every wrong of my life to an empty, over-lit room of steel and sterile instruments that all reflected back distorted versions of myself. I fumbled for any prayer I could remember, hoping that I had all along been mistaken about the hollow blackness of the infinite sky. I never wanted so badly to have been wrong about anything in my life— and then a disembodied voice called out, seemingly only to me— a tiny growl at first that blossomed into a wail dwarfing any thought my mind could possibly hold, any faith I’d ever been so foolish to claim.
“Father” from Hijito by Carlos Andrés Gómez. Copyright © 2019 by Carlos Andrés Gómez. Published by Platypus Press. Used with permission of the poet.
This poem was originally read in the Poetry Unbound episode “Father — Carlos Andrés Gómez.”