My Father Never Ate Until Everyone Had Eaten – Jose Hernandez Diaz

It wasn’t that bad. We had enough to eat. To get by.
Just barely, but our parents never really let us know

The depth of our struggle. They never complained about
Sacrificing everything for their children. For a better life.

In fact, on a daily basis, dad wouldn’t eat at the table with us.
He would just say, “ustedes comen, no tengo hambre.”

I used to get mad at him for not eating with us. Everyone
I knew ate as a family. I didn’t know we were just getting by.

All I wanted to do was watch the Lakers and Dodgers and football.
No, I didn’t know he didn’t join us at the table because he wanted

To make sure we all had enough to eat. Not just barely, until we were full.
Then he’d eat. I used to hate when he’d do that, because I wanted

To eat with my father at the head of the table. But now I know, I ate because
Of my father’s sacrifice, and there is nothing: no painting, or poem,

Or season, or sunset, as beautiful as a father’s ineffable love.

Jose Hernandez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow. He is the author of The Fire Eater (Texas Review Press, 2020). His work appears in The American Poetry Review, The Nation, and in The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He is an Associate Editor at Frontier and Palette Poetry.

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