when I recall the early days,
those meatless fasts of beans and rice,
frijoles en bola.
Down a gravelly road,
a slaughterhouse sells,
the remains of cattle to my father.
A severed head of steer,
una cabeza de vaca,
a fifty-cent feast for a family of twelve.
Under the shade of a big tree,
a stack of wood, and the long-awaited sound
of breaking ground,
The poso, three-foot-long, three-foot-wide, three-foot-deep.
God’s earthen oven—
A kindled fire in its belly
and hungry flames reach to heaven,
y saludan a Dios,
and the firewood dwindles.
a pyre of leña seca that turns to embers.
The hot brasas
con su calor ardiente warm the air.
On mothers table,
a skinned head,
the muscles weaved
through stately jaws and lengthy snout,
severed from what graces the table of kings,
USDA prime, rich man’s fare, medium rare.
But here, on Mother’s table,
lay the regal head with glaring eyes
to be handled with sacred care,
un regalo a sus hijos.
Her hands with loving care,
rub and anoint it
with ancient secrets
for its ascension
to the feast.
The hot pit, like an ancient Siren, calls to its sacrifice,
“Come, rest in my womb, my altar of hot coals,
my warmth awaits.”
The offering, neatly wrapped in wet gunnysacks,
bolsas de costal,
in my father’s, father’s day,
was adorned with cactus leaves,
pencas de maguey.
Then into the pit,
to be cradled by amber and gold,
a sepulchral bed,
sealed like an earthen tomb by tin and sand.
The anointed host,
De noche a día,
half a day, to rest in the grave.
The time tempered
by another fire on the heap,
and like a song from the past,
the crackle of flame
gives tempo to boyhood tales—
my father’s history to me.
La luna llena,
el cielo con sus estrellas,
the crickets play their fiddles,
and the chicharras sing,
they claim the night.
The fire turns to ash,
I lumber to bed
to dream of what tomorrow brings.
I wake to Sunday morning music!
Los Alegres de Terán,
Soon, the scrape of sand on tin,
earth’s oven opens wide
to tempt the air with flavor:
From smolder and smoke
the blessed beef has risen!
The charred shroud removed,
sustenance revealed, the jaws hoisted in the air,
a sudden jerk from Fathers wrist,
and meat melts from tooth and bone into the platter,
lined with tortillas de maíz.
Our fingers do the rest,
folding fibers of flavor
into tacos de barbacoa, to end the fast, of beans and rice.