—after Adrian C. Louis’s “Elegy for the Forgotten Oldsmobile”
Your only stars were bought at HomeGoods.
But like real stars, they dim more and more
until one night they leave us alone, together, in need
of new batteries in the thickening dark.
Queens is too beautiful and vast
for my single set of eyes, or my heart,
but I’m greedy for it all when I watch you run
with your friends at our local park.
Do you remember how lonely this used to be? I hope
not. How other kids would flee
from us, because what is autism to them
but maybe something contagious? What is community to some is
a wall to others.
It’s so much easier for their parents to preach
tolerance on Facebook than it is to teach it
when it matters, isn’t it?
God, these thoughts that keep me up at night.
Riordan, my dude, I’m on the Whitestone Bridge of my mind.
This liminal space equally distant from all the places
it connects. But from here we can see everything
around us but the actual stars, which we sacrificed
for a home in Queens.
Riordan, you’re more
than a diagnosis from a doctor who met you for
all of ten minutes.
I watch a video of you singing, “All You Need Is Love” on my phone
because it proves something.
How you hit each note just right,
and emote perfectly without being prompted, or shown.
When the video ends, I’m back on the Whitestone Bridge
of my mind. Aggressive drivers swerve in front of me
with their assuring decals: “No worries,” “Love is Love,”
“Baby on Board.”
I’m trapped, again, on this bridge so close to home
between boroughs, below planes
that can go everywhere except the past.
What would I even ask for if I could go back?
Why are we still in Queens when so many people we love leave for
Connecticut, or New Jersey, or Long Island,
Because, my man, you’re Queens by birth, your mom by upbringing, and me for life.
fuck those people who tried to make us feel like we couldn’t belong, or that it was wrong
when you’d share a smile and a ‘hello.’
Your stars are fading again, and Rite Aid never has what we need
when we need it, but its doors open wide each time we walk by.
Belonging can be so easy
if we believe it.
I did promise you a sky full of stars, didn’t I?
But what I really meant was that I promise every day
I wonder what stars you’ll see without me, what constellations
you’ll learn about from friends.
May they all last longer than my own.
May they always guide you home.
Francisco Delgado is a proud CHamorro and, through his maternal grandmother, a member of the Tonawanda Band of Seneca. He lives with his wife and their son in Queens, New York, where he goes on long, meandering walks, takes pictures, and records his thoughts in a notebook. His creative work has recently appeared in Newtown Literary, Queensbound, and Lost Balloon. He is an Assistant Professor of English at BMCC (CUNY).