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 & i—

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.