For My Father

Some people have rituals, traditions,
or common sense like hugs and I love
you’s that are forgotten but we
had garage sales
on heat crazed Saturday mornings.
Thirty years later, what I remember
is the “do you want this?” dipped
slow in a thick Oklahoma drawl
as you raised a one dollar stickered
ceramic horse with your callused
brown hands. The tough pancakes
from McDonald’s suffocating
in syrup. Driving for miles, following
cardboard signs, reading directions
to you from the Nickel ads, fingers
black and grimy.
I don’t remember your face
at my piano recitals or your words
on my birthday. But I’ll always know
how thin your legs looked wrapped
in jeans next to mine in the truck,
the country song you sang
to make me roll my eyes,
and how good the endless
coke and peanuts tasted
that Mom never would have let me
have, the salt blanketing my thighs
like a secret gathering dust.


First time i tasted you I suffocated
in your cologne flailing desperate
over your nicotine laced tongue, second
time around you kneaded my thighs
white as unbaked croissants
until I slapped your hand,
three months together bred nothing
but teeth marks and swollen
eyes, last year before I left
we pretended everything could keep
going on like it was, final
night together you cried
between my legs while I finger
combed your hair and told myself
it was worth it.

The Photograph

When I asked to see a photo of your parents,
it was to gauge my enemy. These people
who had a neat row of women lined up
for you in Mumbai, who would turn
you away if they ever knew the color
of my skin or my American name. I wanted
to see you in them, a shadow
of your overly ripened lips,
if your mother’s eyes were opaque
ink blots like yours, if your father’s
cruelty was palpable
through the film. What you showed me
was an aging couple, shoulders
hugging in like damp wings.
Your mother
was blowing out her birthday candles
and there was nothing
of you in them.

Jessica Tyner is originally from Oregon, USA, a member of the Cherokee Nation, and has been a writer and editor for ten years. Currently, she is a senior copy writer for Word Jones, a travel writer with Mucha Costa Rica, a copy editor at the London-based Flaneur Arts Journal, and a contributing editor at New York’s Thalo Magazine. She has recently published short fiction in India’s Out of Print Magazine, and poetry in Slow Trains Literary Journal, Straylight Magazine, Solo Press, and Glint Literary Journal. Her first novel has been picked up by Swift Publishing House. She lives in San José, Costa Rica.

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