As real as Santa or the Easter Bunny
whenever my mother muttered your name.
Your father’s late for dinner again!
Bet he’s with his girlfriend...Esmeralda.
She tossed salad in her Tupperware,
letting the dog eat whatever greens fell
to the linoleum. My sister offering to call
the station again—as if she wanted to
catch him. Not see if our mother was lying.
You sounded so exotic. Like Mexican cities
where The Price Is Right sent hysterical winners.
Foreign. Sexy. Naughty. I could picture you:
long wavy brown hair, a red strapless dress,
sleek as one of my mother’s Virginia Slims.
Did you ever meet Esmeralda? I asked.
What’s she like? It never dawned on me
to wonder if my mother was jealous.
To ask why she was so casual about it.
It never dawned on me to be afraid
my parents might divorce, that this had
to be a joke, that my pot-bellied father—
same oily work pants daily (pale, hairy
butt crack peeking out despite the belt)—
couldn’t possibly have a mistress.
When he trudged in, my sister and I checked
his collarless t-shirt for lipstick. Perfume
strong enough to out-stink the gasoline.
A long silky brown strand stuck somewhere
to his grime-streaked brow. Always nothing.
Dinner’s cold, Howie, my mother growled.
Maybe you already dined … with Esmeralda!
Rubbing his belly, he chuckled. I sure did!
But you know I always have room for seconds
Michael Montlack is author of two poetry collections, including Daddy (NYQ Books 2020), and editor of the Lambda Finalist essay anthology My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them (University of Wisconsin Press). His poems recently appeared in Prairie Schooner, North American Review, december, The Offing, Cincinnati Review, and Poet Lore. His photographs have appeared in Phoebe, Northwest Review and Gertrude. He lives in NYC.