The Boxer

I think of America and I think of my dad
in his 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games windbreaker.
I see photos of him in a leather jacket, in his 20s –
New York City in a crowd of new friends –
I can tell they are laughing, photos of him
leaning on an NYPD cop car, pretending to be candid.

I think of Paul Simon and Bob Dylan
and my dad’s obsession with both of them.
His fake college degree hung in his office — 
hey, no one asked me any question

how he charmed his way up
from dish washer
to line cook
to sous chef
to head chef
to marrying the sun-blonde hostess.

When I think of America,
I see my dad driving an Audi
and bragging about driving stickshift
 — the only way to drive.
He hated peanut butter
and didn’t understand
a meal without meat.

He always ate the eyes
of every fish. He always ate
the fat off every bone.

America made his Arabic garbled,
not even his family understood him,
and his English was all
look at za torkeys, running zis way and zat way.
Greeks thought he was Greek,
and then he’d speak Greek to them.
And, he only spoke Spanish in the kitchen.

At Thanksgiving, I hear someone brag
that they have an ancestor
who was on the Mayflower
and someone says

CAN’T GET ANY MORE AMERICAN THAN THAT –

I close my eyes and remember my bowtie
is really a camera
and that a man hears
what he wants to hear
and disregards the rest.

America –

I need to keep reminding myself:
I belong here.
I belong here.
I belong here.

My dad hopped fences,
boats,
entire seas,
countries,
faked his death,
his name,
his roots,
to get by
to make money
to make me.

Empty, aching, we all come to look for America, right?
We blasted it in the car, shifting gears, 
on the way to school, windows down, morning air.
It must be true because my dad found America.

but, like a home and like a dead father –
they don’t exist anymore –

unless the music is on.