At seven I hadn't seen my father naked
but found the outline of what held him.
I stared at the loose waistband that snapped
around his hips, cupped the pouch
which was slightly darker, more worn
than the rest of the cotton.
Held high above my face, I pressed it down,
let it cover my eyes and nose, a kind of warm suffocation.
My knees gave in when I pulled at the cloth
with each tooth, bit into it.
The terror wasn't the pleasure
more animal than another boy's hands
pressing my face into the playground dirt.
It was the moment she came in, looked
away, and like a good mother,
asked me to wash my hands before dinner.
My father's first job in America was washing dishes
in an upscale suburban restaurant he hated so much,
he'd bring the food home and never touch it,
would rather go hungry than live on that food.
My mother and I stayed up waiting for him
every night like a ritualschool night, Saturday
night, we stayed updistracting ourselves by
telling Bulgarian folktales, dancing to music
videos, anything to keep from falling asleep, anything
not to miss him walk through that door, his eyes
bloodshot, a wet ring around his shirt, exhausted
and utterly himself, my father. My kiss
on his cheek the only thing I knew would help him
go back there, and return to us again the next night.