My Father Has Me Hold a Hen

by Alfredo Aguilar

                                                      against the dirt. i feel its plumage,
                                                      panic as it struggles to get out
                                                      of my grasp. he yells at me
                                                      con ganas! como si tienes huevos!
                                                                  & lightning flashes
                                                      through me. i want to shove him,
                                                      but i do nothing, say nothing—
                                                      just clench the bird’s wings tighter
                                                      as he brings a knife down on its neck.
                                                                  once, my father looked at me
                                                      & said i don’t know what’s to become
                                                      of you & i think he meant
                                                      i was never who he expected—
                                                      in turn, i learned he was someone
                                                      i could never expect to be more
                                                      than absence—bartered
                                                      a flawed love in tasks. once, he hid
                                                      my pair of tight-fitting jeans
                                                      while they were drying
                                                      on the clothesline because
                                                                  en esta casa, no quiero un maricón.
                                                      once, in my adolescent school gloom,
                                                      he wanted to seize all my
                                                      songs, my small compass,
                                                      because he believed they were
                                                      the blue root of my sorrow.
                                                                  blood from the hen’s neck colors
                                                      the dirt murky brown. the hen twitches
                                                      in my grip, then goes limp. i loosen
                                                      my grasp—each palm damp with sweat.
                                                      the hen’s marbled pupil,
                                                      looks up at my father & me—
                                                      reflecting what we’ve done
                                                      with each other
                                                                                                using only our hands.

Alfredo Aguilar is the son of Mexican immigrants. He is the author of the chapbook What Happens On Earth (BOAAT Press 2018). He has been awarded fellowships from the Macdowell Colony, the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference & the Frost Place. His work has appeared in The Iowa Review, Best New Poets 2017, The Adroit Journal & elsewhere. Originally from North County San Diego, he now resides in Texas.