Blood History

Reginald Dwayne Betts

The things that abandon you get remembered different.As precise as the English language can be, with wordslike penultimate and perseverate, there is not a combinationof sounds that describes only that leaving. Once,drinking & smoking with buddies, a friend asked ifI'd longed for a father. Had he said wanted, I would havedismissed him in the way that the youth dismiss it all:a shrug, sarcasm, a jab to his stomach, laughter.But he said longing. & in a different place, I mighthave wept. Said, Once, my father lived with us & then hedidn't & it fucked me up so much I never thought abouthis leaving until I held my own son in my arms & onlynow speak on it. A man who drank Boone's Farm & MadDog like water once told me & some friends that there is noword for father where he comes from, not like we know it.There, the word for father is the same as the word for listen.The blunts we passed around let us forget ourtongues. Not that much though. But what if the oldhead knew something? & if you have no father, you can'thear straight. Years later, another friend wondered whyI named my son after my father. You know, that's a thingturn your life to a prayer that nay dead man gonna answer.

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Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet and memoirist. His latest collection of poetry, Felon, was published in October 2019 by W.W. Norton. He holds a J.D. from Yale Law School.

Fall 2019

New York, New York

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