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In honor of Father's Day, acclaimed poet Martín Espada is sharing a poem about the connections and yet the different experiences that make up three generations: the poet, his father and his son. Espada's father, the late Frank Espada, is a renowned civil rights and community activist and noted photographer.

The poem, "Of the Threads That Connect the Stars," is from Martín Espada's recent and widely praised book, "Vivas to Those Who Have Failed."

A photo of a young Martin Espada with his father Frank Espada, in 1964. The photo was taken by Martin's mother, Marilyn.Marilyn Espada

Of the Threads That Connect the Stars

For Klemente

Did you ever see stars? asked my father with a cackle. He was not

speaking of the heavens, but the white flash in his head when a fist burst

between his eyes. In Brooklyn, this would cause men and boys to slap

the table with glee; this might be the only heavenly light we’d ever see.


I never saw stars. The sky in Brooklyn was a tide of smoke rolling over us

from the factory across the avenue, the mattresses burning in the junkyard,

the ruins where squatters would sleep, the riots of 1966 that kept me

locked in my room like a suspect. My father talked truce on the streets.


My son can see the stars through the tall barrel of a telescope.

He names the galaxies with the numbers and letters of astronomy.

I cannot see what he sees in the telescope, no matter how many eyes I shut.

I understand a smoking mattress better than the language of galaxies.


My father saw stars. My son sees stars. The earth rolls beneath

our feet. We lurch ahead, and one day we have walked this far.

Poet Martin Espada and his son Klemente, taken by Espada's father, renowned civil rights and community activist as well as acclaimed photographer, Frank Espada.Frank Espada

Reprinted from "Vivas to Those Who Have Failed," by Martín Espada, published by W.W. Norton, Jan. 2016.

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