boy and the belt
the belt is an extension of dad and dad is an extension of god. the boy is an extension of dad too. the belt is just one thread tying them together. the boy prays the belt stays wrapped around dad’s waist. the belt does not believe in god, but if the belt did believe in anything, the belt would call it purpose. the belt began as skin on a cow. its purpose was to protect and it failed. the boy knows all about that. the boy has purpose too. dad and god and mostly he fails. the belt’s new purpose is to hold—to contain dad’s expanding waist—except when the boy fights, then the belt is born again as a classroom ruler with the day’s lesson. maybe the belt and the boy can rebel. the boy tugs at the thread that will bring dad and the belt. the boy won’t lie about his bruised brother or call it anything noble. the boy fights because he is bigger. dad says he has no choice. the belt says it has no choice. the boy understands he displeases god. when the belt meets the boy. the belt kisses the boy and leaves purple lipstick. dad understands this as an act of love. the belt doesn’t know about love. the belt knows it completed its job. and the boy hears love.
poem to take the belt out of my dad’s hands
in this story, he is wearing the belt instead of bringing it down. my ass stays soft. my head hard. in this story, the belt hangs in his closet. i snatch it and bury it. in this story, the belt acts alone. it is not his hands. he is watching TV. Sportscenter or whatever. he would stop the belt if he could. in this story, i grab the belt and beat myself with it—in this story, it is my own hands. his hands stay innocent. i stand above myself and it is for my own good. in this story, i bury the leather belt in a cement coffin. i eat a whole cow and wear the skin like a luxurious silk. in this story, i am waiting for the whip. in this story, i am already crying. in this story, he doesn’t reach for the belt. the belt is buried. he reaches for my head and rubs it. soft. he says it’s okay. in this story, there is no but. this story ends here. my dad. me. still under his hands. still crying.
José Olivarez is the co-author of the book of poems Home Court. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the Program Director at Urban Word NYC. A winner of a 2015 Bronx Recognizes Its Own award from the Bronx Council on the Arts, his work has been published in The BreakBeat Poets, The Acentos Review, Specter Magazine, Union Station Magazine, and Luna Luna Magazine among other places. His work has also been featured on Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie basketball blog, Chicago Public Radio, and on Mass Poetry’s PoeTry on the T program. He is from Calumet City, IL, and he lives in the Bronx. You can purchase Home Court here and follow him on social media at @jayohessee.
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