Since they never married and he wasn’t there to argue,
his line was left blank on my birth certificate;
I inherited my mother’s past identity as my own.
Every year, I imagine him wrestling with the feeling
of having forgotten an important name
and going through the alphabet letter by letter.
He makes me wonder if I could be the reincarnation
of Jimmy Gray, gassed hours before my birth for the sodomy
and murder of three year old Deressa Seales.
I came late to my own party but caught mother
wrapping gifts. Great-great Gramma Young died earlier
that day of congestive heart failure, a synonym
for old age. I heard her face was made of deeply cut crevices.
She wore the softest sweaters and had a doily for everything—
her absence long forgiven but not his.
I may have dislodged and leaked out an ear
while he banged his head to unconsciousness on a metal
headrest after noxious fumes filled killer lungs
that breathed in adolescent death twice in ten years.
Spectators counted eleven moans before the room
was cleared by an admittedly drunk executioner.
Reporters called it inhumane the way he suffered.