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Ethel Kewalo, 1932


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.

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