Writing Catalog

Sol Rivera

Grade: 11

Hawken School

Instructor: Janae Peters

An Ode to My Father/ There is No Me but Myself/No Messiah in Cleveland


An Ode to My Father/ There is No Me but Myself/No Messiah in Cleveland

An Ode to My Father
Your favorite word is verve
In my sixteen years I have heard
No one but you use it
They have no need for spirit
I say no one uses it enough

We get glances when we walk side by side
You look Grandfather with
That cane carved from wood found in Puerto Rico
You say I am her father
You've never doubted your name

So you hobble your way through my high school years
"I can leave once I see her in college"
I have never seen you rest
But I will care for you
If only you asked

I'd place those broken feet on the couch
While you sang discordant tunes from the past
Stories I drowned out once I entered middle school
I have not given you respect

So I have become Daughter turned Mourner
A funeral for the limited time I have forsaken
I spend shiva on the sofa seeing you work
With your battered body that's covered
In the lotion Momma buys with your money
It smells like home

This family needs you and your verve
We need you to pick us up and push us in the ocean
Salt water heals all wounds you say

There is No Me but Myself
According to my therapist
And the person who picked out my tarot cards
I am a rock that's been sanded to a stopper
One put in gaps to keep the door opened
I am not invited into the room

My fire was never forged
God was drained when he stirred me into existence
A chorus of angels looked at me, said
What else could we have done?
We have given her heaven
(We gave her an iPad when she was seven)

But despite how lucky she is
The child is lost in a rabbit hole
Looking up what identity is
Like it can be defined in a sentence

I carry more identifiers than
Momma carries worries about how
I'm too unpassionate about life
Like a fish brought out of the ocean and into
a universe of ish
latin-ish, jew-ish, white-ish, young-ish
No one can define me if I do not exist

On the tombstone that marks the loss of my innocence
Only the word Daughter can be found
Momma carved it herself
She is not proud

To see her struggle-less girl
Who is both tortoise and hare
Too slow to speak, too fast to breath
I raced myself and lost
The person who picked out my cards couldn't read them
I am too much to be

No Messiah in Cleveland
I'll tell you a town secret
Down the street from my school
There is a railroad that works
Once a week but no one rides it because
It just takes you in a loop
We are already in purgatory
There's no need to sightsee

At my school, students can tell you how many
meals you can get from welfare
They've stood in those lines
breaking a bit
Each time a card is declined

It is a place before a promised land
But right now we are slaves of a system that hates us
Our Pharaoh is the destitution the rules these streets
No Moses
He wouldn't have touched the Midwest with a stick

Politicians broke my city's spirit and
Baked it's essence into bread
It was consumed, its ingredients exchanged
For petty protections, we had
Unholy expectations
Separating our sins from those of our (once) saviors
Who were sent away when the railroads were built
When there was no more money to make

We grit our teeth on these megar crumbs
Paid for by what jobs are left
In this economy, we crash in our beds from hunger
We dream of saying goodbye to this wretched town

Here is another town secret
As soon as you enter
You will grow to love its scant sanctuary
We stayed when God sent down his ten sins
Watched as the river went up in flames

So join this corpse of Americana
We are all dead here
Trying to force reincarnation on this ghost town
But just as the Browns will soon win a Super Bowl
Cleveland can always be revived