Sonnets for My Father

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 100th birthday.

07-06 Labra
Carilda Oliver Labra
1922 – 2018


Father of yesterday who made hope
full of children and debts.
I conjure your hand which was never dry
and never knew stone or spear.

When you were judge, you were ill with insomnia…
as you longed to save so many thieves.
Let the sparrows chirp peace for you
and may you have playthings at last!

I make believe, now, that you’re sleeping
and your affectionate greeting, your amazement, lives on.
My life now moves with entropy;

Now, I’m truly the sad little daughter
that can no longer lean on your shoulder
because you died in January, Father.


Grief arrives so violently
like the rain after the dawn;
today my smile is different:
an invisible tear that doesn’t weep.

(I tell myself in secret: maybe he’s coming by,
and not only as he knows of this grieving
but because I still wait anxiously
in case he asks for the key to our house…)

I can’t believe it… I need you,
and you are dead, my father, little dead one.
This time you are checkmated.

Like a crazy person, in super human delirium,
I lift your chess piece with my hand
and place you playing in the game!


I have dressed in white, green, red,
because grief does not rhyme with love.
It has been a long time, my father, since your eyes
refused darkness or glare.

Don’t let hail and snow fall on your innocent and foreign grave.
Let the birth of spring sing to you
let a flower exude perfume on the ninth!

I reserve the glory of your room for you,
a happy sparkle of the sun, that I keep apart
that piece of earth where you were born,
your robes, your books, your saw…
It’s not enough now to love you so much:
you’re dead, my father, you’re dead.


Your comfortable chair… where is it?
Your student violin… how does it sound?
You buried pennies in the sand
and gave my mother other names.

I keep all your letters and pictures.
In my dream your prostate is cured.
On the patio floor and in my affection,
your last shoes walk on.

I want to see you beyond the shutter.
Come, spirit; come, my supportive angel.
I no longer know what to do, what to say,

because I long to eat breakfast
with my father, my sage, my almsman,
at 81 Tirrey Avenue.

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