From the series “Portraits of Our Father Drinking”
Portrait #1: An Early Start
from the satchel he hefts inside the house
how it will go; the bag bulging from papers
tells us it’ll be a long afternoon and evening,
especially when he sloughs off the work
from one slouched shoulder to pour himself a drink
before saying one word to either of us
about how well we stayed within the lines
of the coloring pages of puppies and kittens,
birds and flowers we tore from the books
that now cover the floor waiting for him
to pin or tape to parts of our bedroom walls
too high for any step-stool for us to reach.
He will pour a glass before kissing Mother hello,
if he does.
The longer he sits and sips,
the longer he marks one essay in blue
and sets it aside to take up the next,
the more our father squints at the words,
even mouthing to make sure what he reads is right.
He writes his comments in margins,
final comments on the last page,
sometimes scratching off what he wrote
to rewrite what he meant to say,
to ensure his students understand his correct tone.
Genaro Kỳ Lý Smith was born in Nha Trang, Vietnam, in 1968. He is the author of The Land Baron’s Sun: The Story of Lý Loc and His Seven Wives (University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press), which won the Indie Book Awards in 2016. His novel, The Land South of the Clouds, the second in the trilogy, earned second place for multi-cultural fiction for the same award in 2017. The third book, a collection of short stories and a novella entitled The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born, was released in October. He resides in Ruston with his wife Robyn and their two daughters, Layla and Naomi. He has been teaching literature, composition, and creative writing at Louisiana Tech University since 1999.