Another word for father is worry.
—Li-Young Lee, “Words for Worry”
In the late 70s, Mars Men was a candy made in Canada, soft sweet-and-sour gummies shaped like alien beings. If you can’t say alien, you can say creature-who-is-not-human or person-who-is-not-from-here. Aliens work in the backs of restaurants and in orchards brimming ripe with fruit. Aliens go to school and dream of one day being a doctor or a factory floor manager or a father who is good to his children. My mother was an alien once, until she was naturalized, from Canada and not allowed to come to America because her grandmother was from China. If you can’t say Mars, you can say sour-patch. As in, garden-of-terrible-fruits. As in, land-of-awful-tastes. As in, place-that-is-not-America. Upon entering the American market in the mid-80s, Mars Men were renamed Sour Patch Kids to capitalize on the Cabbage Patch Kids craze—dolls that came with adoption papers to create the fantasy that they were real live children. If you can’t say children, you can say those-who-depend-on-us-for-protection or those-who-require-our-love. In France, Sour Patch Kids are called Very Bad Kids and perhaps this is true because kids who are very bad are still children regardless of how sweet or sour a company or a country might label them. My father was imprisoned as a child because his grandfather was from Japan and all aliens looked the same to America in 1942. Sour Patch Kids are coated with inverted sugar and sour sugar, which are both less healthy than normal sugar, yet they do not contain gelatin, which makes them both vegan-friendly and delicious. The edges of a bag of Sour Patch Kids is designed with the silhouettes of tiny bodies in a jumble, bodies stacked on bodies until they bleed into one another, until they are just a shadowy mass on the periphery, until you don’t notice they are there. It can be easy to not notice who is incarcerated, if the bodies are not in sight or if you choose not to look. If you can’t say bag, you can say place-to-keep-the-bodies, or you can say abandon-hope-and-quit, and if you can’t say body, you can say child. You can say child. You can say child and this is a sacred meaning because if you can’t say sour, you can say unhappy-like-sickness-in-the-body. When my son is sour, a piece of candy might silence his cries, even though the only difference is the sweetness in his mouth. Sweetness for those children along the Texas border. Sweetness for their parents wherever they are. If you can’t say sweetness, you can say hope-of-escape-from-the-sour-patch. If you can’t say sour-patch, you can say immigrant-detention-center or concentration-camp. If you can’t say kids, you can say precious-ones-robbed-of-sweetness. If you can’t say candy, you can say confection-that-makes-you-believe-everything-will-be-okay. You must say something.