The strange cupboard
in our basement kitchen
opened through a hatch
into our basement living room,
and I crawled through the hatch
from one subterranean room to another.
On the shelf above my secret passage,
my father stored small cans
of Carnation condensed milk,
and once in a while
he sat at the kitchen table
and ate a can of condensed milk,
spoonful by sweetened spoonful,
in the basement he kept hot
as the country he grew up in,
but rarely spoke about,
so that it was only from his sister
that I learned his bowlegs
were caused by the war,
when people paid his father
with blackened bananas,
because any fruit was precious,
and still my father didn't get enough
vitamins or minerals,
even though he learned
to catch wild rabbits
in his hands
and to sing love songs on the radio
in the language of those
who occupied his country,
whom he never forgave
but did not talk about
as he sat in our hot kitchen
with his small cans
of hoarded sweetness.

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