Above, the poet's father, Frank Espada. Image credit: Jason Espada
This poem appeared in the February 2015 issue of our magazine. Subscribe to read the full issue online.
My father worked as a mechanic in the Air Force,
the engines of planes howling in his ears all day.
One morning the wristwatch his father gave him was gone.
The next day, he saw another soldier wearing the watch.
There was nothing he could say: no one would believe
the greaser airplane mechanic at the Air Force base
in San Antonio. Instead, one howling night he got drunk
and tore up the planks of an empty barracks for firewood.
There was no way for him to tell time locked in the brig.
When he died, I stole my father’s wristwatch.
I listened to the beating heart of the watch.
The heart of the watch kept beating long after
my father’s heart stopped beating. Somewhere,
the son of the man who stole my father’s wristwatch
in the Air Force holds the watch to his ear and listens
to the heart of the watch beating. He keeps the watch
in a sacred place where no one else will hear it.
So the son tries to resurrect the father. The Bible
tells the story wrong. We try to resurrect the father.
We listen for the heartbeat and hear the howling.
Martín Espada has published more than fifteen books as a poet, editor, essayist, and translator. His forthcoming collection of poems is called Vivas to Those Who Have Failed (2016). Other books of poems include The Trouble Ball (2011) and The Republic of Poetry (2006), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The recipient of the Shelley Memorial Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship, Espada is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.