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My Father's Guayabera Shirts
by Erika Ayón

I have three Guayaberas that belonged to him.
I keep them hung in the back of the closet.
Far enough away so I don't have to see them
but close enough for when I need to.

The beige one I gave him for Christmas.
The way he liked them, with left
and right breast pockets, soft linen,
sturdy buttons down the middle.

The sky-blue one he wore, his last Father's Day.
He hated taking pictures, but he agreed
for some reason, and all ten of us took turns
posing with him in the backyard, by the cacti.

The gray one I saw him in one afternoon
as he stood by the front gate. His eyes matched the shirt.
His eyes changed colors often, depending
on the weather, his mood. It was overcast that day.

I asked my mom to give them to me
when he passed away. I felt like a scavenger
looking through his clothes,
a mountain of blues, grays, and browns.

They were the only colors he wore because, he said,
other colors were for funerals or weddings.
I always thought they were the colors
he could relate to.

All those days spent on farms as a young boy,
a man had translated into this.
He dressed in what he missed most.
Open skies, fields, and rivers.

I didn't want anything else.
Not his white sombrero, his light navy raincoat,
the black handkerchief he carried to wipe his brow.
Just these three shirts.

Some days, when I feel his memory fading,
I hold them near, embrace them.
His scent still lives in them—it's of leaves, citrus,
freshly seeded soil, like Fall before the harvest.


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