Alba Blanco

Fred Arroyo

My father hardly ever said a word to me.

He held his language, his family,

his lovely garden so close

to his rolled up sleeves, so tight

within his fists, that words, I thought,

must be terrible, so painful

he never wanted to mouth them,

only wanted to strike them,

never wanted to release them

like the white butterflies fluttering

between his pumpkin blossoms

and green rosemary,

never wanted to inflict them

like the leather strap

he took from a rusty nail

on a post in the kitchen

to quiet my questions,

my eager and loud talking,

my childhood singing.


Later, in a dream, I found my father

sitting on a wrought-iron bench

in the Park of Pigeons.

There was a blue fountain pen,

the nib a shiny fine gold.

A notecard streaked with pigeon shit,

the words elegant illegible purple lines

like waves searching for a shore.

The shadows of palms

tiger-stripping his open hands,

his thighs, the freshly picked tomatoes

ripening in a circle in front of his shoes

powdered with red dust.

Decades had passed.

There was no time left to blame,

or forgive. I loved the smell

of old leather. His brown face,

streaked with salt, waves.

He wiped his eyes.

Opened his mouth.

We both looked to the sky

as the pigeons sprang up

and whirled in the alabaster light.


I awoke in a fever. My sheets wet.

My hands chilled. Bluing. Outside

alba. Alba, al alba. All this new snow

falling on my father’s garden.


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