“When was the last time that you cried?”
I asked my father through the phone.
He was silent at first.
Never before had I questioned his sensitivity
nor was there a sign of weakness in my childhood
when I watched him closely.
His face was always grim
or his head down with his 9 to 5
My father only smiles at progress:
when our dark green lawn gets mowed,
the creme tiles of our kitchen floor installed,
those living room walls painted a thick coat of maroon,
and the smell of rubber excites him so
when he replaces tire after tire,
His duties within the family were clear to him:
be a handyman around the house and
Though I have witnessed my mother cry,
and on many different occasions,
I have never seen my father weep.
“The year you were born,
my best friend died,”
his voice was like that of a child.
This cell phone conveniently acting as a safeguard
sheltering his facial expressions from me.
I shed a few tears for Moka,
after he was shot.
“We used to run the streets together
when we had no guidance as kids.
We would get into trouble and out
Moka was like a brother to me.”
He rushed off of the phone
“I have to get back to work,” he said.
My father was the rock of our family
working his 9 to 5 tirelessly.
He was Young Vell in the streets
where drug dealers and gangbangers took him in
when his father was in the military
and his mother was being beaten down
by words and hands of a stepfather
who despised the presence of a child not his own.
My father became a rock
when he sold rocks
on the corner of Prospect
in the city of Kansas City
where he fought niggas
because of his light skin
and it didn’t matter
since they all went to jail
or got shot like Moka.
My father ran from police
he served his time in jail
and then created two kids
or maybe even three
paying his child support
marrying my mother
and keeping his 9 to 5
His duties within the family were clear to him.
He hadn’t had the pleasures of weeping since 1996
the year that his best friend died,
the year that I was born.
and in his mind,
he didn’t have time to cry.
~ Ralvell Rogers II
*”Time to Cry” was previously published by literary magazine Tittynope Zine in 2016*
Guest editor Annette Hope Billings is an award-winning poet known for the impact of her audible presentations of work. In 2016 she brought her registered nursing career to an early end to fully pursue her passion for writing. She is happily working on her fourth collection of poetry. Billings’ work can also be found in a variety of anthologies as well as in print and online journals. Please visit her website and/or Facebook page for further information.