Homenaje

— John Manuel-Arias

They were quicker to claim my dead father’s things
than they were to water his plants.

I come home and they’re dead too.

A part of me isn’t sure if his home is a shrine now
because it’s technically where he dropped dead.

And I’ve definitely seen shrines be-
fore, on the sides of the road
where white crosses stand straight up
in the dirt—

the dead’s picture glued in the center like a crucifix.

But my father’s pictures are gone too.

So, if it’s really a shrine, is it to be kept clean by mourning pilgrims?

By mourning pilgrims, I mean those who said they loved him;
by those who said they loved him, I mean the ones who stole
his underwear, his television to unplug and stare into
like a mirror, hoping he’d appear to them

and even his army medals, too unholy to throw
into the cremation pyre alongside him.

If it’s not a shrine, is it a temple then?
But can it really be a temple if the revered is never coming back?

From here in the doorway, a cold breeze at my back,
I see a carpet of scorched leaves and cockroach wings.

The lead paint walls are impregnated with miles of shriveled vines
and maybe it’s not a temple, or even a shrine
but a forest that needs only for me to tend it.


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