Check your photo albums. Look for the mark on the back of photos of you and Ivonnecita.
The woman from the island has called again. She has visions of me, arms outstretched, barely one, smiling and teetering toward my father.
I am marked.
She calls again: My father dressed in uniform in the Korean jungles. My father boxing for the Army.
He is marked.
When Aida emptied much of the house, she also took our family photo albums. Older ones mainly – from the time before I was adopted. Dad grabbed the rest. After the latest phone call from the island, Dad pulls the rescued albums out of boxes and onto the kitchen table.
We peel back page after page of clinging translucent covers, carefully pull each photo from the sticky backing. Flip photo after photo, search for the caller’s visions:
White — empty, safe.
Marked — a delicate, deliberate line: cursed.
I no longer remember exactly what the mark looked like. I know it was dark and thin and made with something other than motherly love. By the end, the photo albums are full of yellowed pages and the stark white outlines of where my childhood photos had once been. Next to the albums, two piles: those that are safe and those that are not. The second pile holds the majority of my father’s history and mine. The first no longer needs a photo album to contain them.
Nine days after the first phone call, the large pile of photos moves from the table to a box to the driveway — next to a steel drum filled with newspapers and wood. What remains of my childhood photos fits into an envelope.
Darkened corners become lit
novenas holding whispers, folded
papers, fears, counter-curses.
Another call: novenas
do not suffice, cannot protect.
Small flames from corners grow
into a conflagration in the driveway.
In flames, I see myself — a toddler
curling and melting, a ghost teetering
through ash and smoke, reaching
toward my father’s outstretched arms.