The idea of a wilderness is itself a cultural construct.
My father’s father did not die
before I got to meet him.
I would enter his unfurnished home
which smelled like smoked paprika
diluted in lemon juice. “Duende, duende,
duende,” he would mutter while nursing
strangled sparrows with drips
of his gypsy blood, but knowing
the best medicine is ham and chorizo.
He would say, “Come in, bicho raro,”—
literally rare bug—and feed me stories
about missionaries and pirates, the only war
that has ever mattered, heart vs. flesh,
Jerusalem vs. Athens. Each time a bishop dies
a buccaneer gains an eye patch, an old saying
meant to mean good luck juggling those tacos;
or, here have a baby with continuous heartache
just like yours. Resent each other for that.
When my father would pick me up
in his not-busted ass ’92
(the exhaust of which did not sound unlike
El Yunque—steady rainfall, insect orchestra,
but most importantly the merry band of Coqui
jamming through the night),
he would not tell me I’m about as useful
as dumping a bag of dead fish into the sea:
he would not punch my chest,
and I would not cough blood.
Later, when I wasn’t invited to middle school parties,
I didn’t avoid them: not too sheepish
to supplant one’s legacy with my own and all too eager
to separate the breath within another—
O, what calamities we love; I eat the world,
and it eats me—our steady ritual in becoming intangible.
Geramee Hensley is a Filipino-American writer from Ohio. His work has appeared in The Harpoon Review, Really System, JAB, Cartridge Lit, and other journals. He’s won several awards, and most recently his poem “Quiet” fetched him Miami of Ohio’s 2015 Golden Ox Award for Poetry. He can be found at geramee.com or on Twitter @geramee_. He wants to know what church means to you.