Anthony Febo

my father is a country boy – I am a city kid


growing up he fell asleep to the coqui’s lullaby

and I to the crying of ambulances

he was raised with Spanish sprouting from his tongue

and I had English and Spanish mixing in my soiled mouth

and I couldn’t tell which language

was a flower or a weed

when he goes back home, he goes for a run

to see the people he knows will still be in the places he grew up

when I come home, I sit in my favorite coffee shop  

and let the people I think might still be there say hi, if they remember me

we are similar in loving where we come from

but when my father smiles, you are welcomed into family

and I am still learning how to look people in the eye when I shake their hand


my father’s heart is less like a bloody knuckle after a bar fight, and more like the stitches used to heal the wound


I have never seen my father bleed

but I’ve seen his scars

proof that he has been opened

proof that time will heal, but remind you

of where you came from

my father trained in martial arts since before I was born

if my memory serves me correct

there is a picture of a newborn baby me in my father’s black belt uniform

proof that my father wanted me to continue fighting

if my memory serves me correct

when my father was nine

his dad lost his fight with Alzheimer’s

then three of my dad’s sisters

then his brother

then two more of his sisters

proof that some fights you can’t win

some scars you can’t see

my heart is less like the punch that breaks the board

and more like the scream that blocks the pain

the first time I asked my lover if she had seen a certain movie, and she said

yes I saw it with you

I laughed, although I wasn’t joking.

proof that humor is a good defense from scarring

proof that some fights are inherited

last night, I had to remind my father three times

that my dog and my cousin share the same name

and we laughed after each one

proof that laughter can hurt as much as a punch

proof that humor and tears can come from the same place

me and my father’s hearts

are less like the picture of us holding each other

when I finally became a black belt

and more like the promise I made him

I will never forget this moment, Dad

I will never stop fighting

Anthony Febo is a poet, actor, youth worker, lover and friend. He founded the college and adult slam poetry scene in the city that birthed and raised him, Lowell, MA. He also co founded FreeVerse! a organization that works with Lowell’s youth to better understand themselves through poetry. He has been a teaching artist for the last 10 years and just recently became a full time artist through the collective Flatline Poetry. He is Puerto Rican as hell. So you can catch him in the kitchen or on the dance floor ready to show you what that means.