Summer After

After Gregory Pardlo

By Julian Randall

The summer after 4th grade
is the same summer I stumble
in on my father watching Purple Rain
for the first time    and I didn’t know
who was on the TV    half as well
as I knew his voice   and I didn’t know
any of the words    and I didn’t know
my father could cry and I didn’t know
then that my father had lost his job
and would not know for a year
But here     my father eager to hide
his salt beneath his massive hands
hands that are so much like a ship
that has been loved through a storm
or battle leather or anything shamed
by its own softness    until he is the man
I had always known while I ask him
        What are you watching?
and he looks at me      and I am small
            when he responds
This boy lost his daddy too, but his daddy
taught him the music, now he’s playing
to show his daddy how much he loves the music
And I didn’t have the teeth then to say I was
sorry    I was defined by many openings
and still am   but I knew how to run
up the stairs and grab a stringless guitar
by its throat and run down the stairs
to strum air as I sat in his lap
and turned my face from him
so he could mouth all the words

Julian Randall is a Living Queer Black poet from Chicago. He is a 2016 Callaloo fellow and cofounder of the Afrolatinx collective Piel Cafe. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Offing, Vinyl, Puerto del Sol and African Voices. He is a candidate for his MFA at Ole Miss.

 Photo Credit: Nicholas Nichols

Photo Credit: Nicholas Nichols