Dad calls my name
in the chaos of unlit morning,
says, Get up.
He is in a starched shirt and tie, shaved,
small piece of reddened tissue on his chin.
Mom left yesterday, Sunday.
Dad has no choice but to take me with him
to Queens where he manufactures fruit drinks,
liquid synthetics that burn the back of throats.
He tells me on the train that Mom has a bad heart—
an orange- and grape-flavored reformulation,
a fact like new weather.
The air outside the plant is dense
with sweet rot and acrid chemicals;
the ground by the door seethes: cockroaches.
I stop, step back. Dad walks through them,
turns, looks at me, waits. I hold up my arms—
but on this morning we commuted
on a double-decker train and city busses
and arrived at Dad’s refusal
to lift me.
I ask once more but know
I will do it, nearly wetting my tights.
Though I am only five, I understand.
The truth will repeat itself
with every hospital stay:
there is only so much he can do without her.