Jose Kozer on his father

The shop in Havana is dust
and the Irish cotton is dust
and my father, a dusty Jew,
day after day comes home with a loaf of bread beneath his arm.
Day after day, each day alike,
Papa arrives: we eat lunch, our eyes fixed on the ceiling’s ornate
I have never seen the water come in, have seen neither fish nor
flowerpot. (1242)

The repetition of “dust” in the opening lines suggest a dullness—which we see in the scene where Kozer enjoys a meal with his family. The repetition of images and words such as “dust,” the string of things and dusty items, “day after day,” indicate that in Kozer’s life there exists an overwhelming sense of monotony. Kozer views the world as dusty, dry, and lifeless—lacking luster. The actions of his father going to work every day, coming home every day with “a loaf of bread beneath his arm,” “each day alike,” all show that nothing changes in the routine. The scenes with the father prove just as unexciting, with Kozer’s eyes “fixed” on something as arbitrary as mold during the meal (rather than having conversation)—so boring infact that the mold becomes “ornate.” Perhaps he sees the intricacies in mold because he has had so much time to ponder it. He and his parents don’t talk during the meal and that indicates that they don’t have much to say to one another and that single action becomes more telling when every single day they have nothing to say—hinting at the strain in his relationship with his parents. These descriptions and imagery directly contrast with what he has never seen (and what we can assume he wants to see). He chooses to focus on “water” and the movement of water as things he has never seen before and water embodies the opposite of dust and dryness. Water serves as a symbol for excitement in his life that he lacks. In a more literal sense, the things he wants to see, “water [coming] in,” “fish,” and “flowerpot,” things that one finds in the outside world, and his yearning to see those things act as a sign that he doesn’t get to go out and interact with nature and the world as much as he likes. The line of the father who “comes home” to Kozer and Kozer’s mother supports this idea. Kozer remains indoor, in his own house throughout the poem—not outdoors. We do not see movement from his character as opposed to the father and this further supports the suggestion that Kozer sees the excitement he lacks in his own life as a quality that can only exist in the outside world—in the unknown.

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