In Nineteen Seventy-One
when he was first employed
my father had one formal shirt

It was his office-clerk-shirt
his impress-the-boss-shirt
his escape-from-hardships-shirt
his I-will-be-successful-shirt
his I-borrowed-money-to-buy-this-shirt

Every evening, in a bucket
he scrubbed it clean
and pressed it crisp in the morning

His mother received groceries, thanks to that shirt
his siblings were supported, because of that shirt
He changed his trajectory, wearing that shirt
He lifted extended family, with the strength of that shirt
He laid this path for me, with threads from that shirt

Sometimes I wonder how he did it
an upbringing on maize fields, far from the city
Yet he figured it out

I was born seven years, after he first wore that shirt
I never got to meet it or to say thank you shirt
Because of my parents I have always had more than a single shirt
When things are hard, as they are now
I remember what can be done by a person with one shirt
These are not impossibilities, this is my version of my father’s one shirt.
Give me a bucket. I will wash it every day and hang it up to dry
When I wake up in the morning I will iron out its creases
and strut out into the world in my we-have-been-here-before-and-won shirt.


POEM: Copyright © Iz Mazano

PICTURE:  Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

I am writing 30 Poems in November to support the Center for New Americans which provides English language classes, education support and legal services assistance for immigrants in Western Massachusetts. Please see my campaign page to support this cause. Thank you, Iz.


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