Eric Antonio



we called him dädi,
we were just learning the tongue
we called him dädi,
cause it made him happy

where we came from everybody had straight hair
but dädi's was do was curly,
salt and pepper like
his voice was raspy,
and I learned he was really scatting most of the time
dädi smoked kools and drank vodka on the porch in the summer
pulling drags and watchin’ us play in the yard
he was from Jackson, Mississippi
and often teased my brothers and I with
stories about his people, catfishing in the creeks,
and the faces that he recalled

we called him dädi,
we were just learning the tongue
we called him dädi,
it made him feel good

dädi had a crooked smile
and plastic teeth that slept next to him
sometimes, when I got up in the middle of the night to pee
I'd see those teeth smiling at me on the bathroom sink
dädi liked to eat peppers and give us english lessons
he was a mild old man, maybe calmed by two great wars
and his kitchen housed a parakeet that died before its time
so sorry, dädi, that I sprayed bug killer on your little friend
I know it broke his heart
finding that feathery carcass, undisturbed by flies
just that funny smell of cheap cologne, he said
but he never got angry with me

dadi left us sad on a lonely day
long before I really knew him
long before I realized why I would have loved him so
I never knew a anyone quite like dädi was
and I'll never miss a man quite as much

photo by Thomas Sayers Ellis


Eric Antonio was born in Quezon City, Srivijaja (or the Philippines) and immigrated to the Americas with his family in 1974. He grew up in Inkster, Michigan and graduated Morehouse College in 1991 with a degree in Economics and The George Washington University in 1997 with a MA in Special Education. Currently he coordinates special education services for middle schoolers in the Baltimore, MD region.


Published in Volume 10:2, Spring 2009.