by Arturo Ruiz
What little I knew about my real father
was used to shame me.
Not-real Daddy would say, One of these
is not like the others. My sisters and I, shoulder-to-shoulder—
I'm this brown, dark thing against their milky Portuguese.
Their long black hair falling in waves.
Mine more frantic: wiry curls sitting like a nest on my head.
Momma strayed with a Hawaiian man from Waianae.
Not-real Daddy wouldn't let her forget it,
not me either. Not for a minute.
Girls, we want our daddies to love us.
I'd bathe the babies.
See how shiny and clean I made them?
I'd sing out loud, a new song I learned in church.
See how talented I am?
But not-real Daddy didn't give a shit.
That's the mistake you have to live with.
When the fighting started, I'd sneak out the window,
wild and barefoot, running down the street.
I'd run and run until I slipped into a blur,
where no one else existed but me. There,
I told myself, my children will know their father,
and he will be as real to them
as my attempts at forgetting.