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Excavation of a Boy

Tell me the story again
how you shaped clay into a toy.

All you had was dirt.
Such an old thing to have.

I didn’t believe you
until I visited your childhood fields.

You have the same bones
as your own stern father;

your own stoic mother.
No wonder you ran away.

I don’t wonder anymore
why you went to work

for the grocer, a teenage boy.
So you could kill boredom.

You pictured the sky
as more than a field of corn.

I didn’t know you, Father.
Why are there no stories?

Because you were too busy
working—looking beyond the pasture.

You told me in the beginning,
there was mud.

Then brothers playing like
brothers—violent & wrestling for love.

Years later, you placed us like dolls
inside a fenced backyard.

My brother & I play with our own
figurines: dinosaurs, transformers,

All of it buried now beneath the rain,
the mud. We bury our toys.

Black crescent moons
under our nails because

it’s what we want: something
to uncover, to tell our children

what we preserved & mystified.
What we grieve is lack.

Like a magician, I will pull one
story I don’t have &

think of the thirst my father had.

Son of Mexican immigrants. Writer in The Missouri Review, Blackbird, Kenyon Review. Editor-in-chief @ THE BOILER. MFA from Sarah Lawrence.