My father smells of work,
Like gasoline and metal and something spicy
That the wind blows into my nose,
And I can still smell him after he is long gone,
And I am sitting in the front seat with my mama.
She asks how it went,
A ten-minute meeting at a middle ground gas station.
I drop the money in the cup holder between us. Well, he’s fat,
As if he swallowed too big a bite of life,
And it thickened around his legs, swelled in his belly,
Sagged his arms, and filled his head.
She says I should try harder.
For years, we meet:
At a 24-hour McDonald's, at a grocery store
With my mama watching from the car or a far-off table,
Hoping (I think) that I find myself
In staring at his fingers or his chin;
The mustache, the bald head.
I never told her I forgot how he looked every time,
That I had to sift him out of a crowd
From maybe-killers alone on benches.
He would kiss my forehead with whiskered lips
And say he didn’t have long.
Neither did I.