Pink meat sizzles on mortar bricks and metal brackets: blood sausage shanks intestines lengua, a word for language, loved by my father, red from corralling young calves with Abuelo, smoky, dark now fat around the edges, my father, who ate river fish fresh this morning, who snapped photographs as my uncles slaughtered dinner at dawn, to hear him speak, English at least, to hear him speak of unboned eel and rows of chorizo, but for bistec, pollo, the porcine screams, the parrots cackle —they mock us and sound human— to hear him speak his native tongue at the table, like the only time I heard him in public, Toastmasters ’97, nine or ten at the time and mortified, alive now, as we lay to rest, alive as Orion deep in purple skies, mis primos trained on tiny limes to slice and squeeze and pluck mas from the bower, from the head: ”everybody bow,” in Spanish of course; a toast, he makes a toast I don’t, thunderheads roll in, ash disburses in the breeze, hot orange coals, cold orange cola, Mister, el perro, snaps up scraps when cousins or primas or tía his sister my mother serves tongue to my father, his favorite: fat drips from the grill, flames and the fire snake up this gristle. Father, grace this meal.
Diego Báez is the recipient of fellowships from the National Book Critics Circle and the Surge Institute. He writes regularly for Booklist, and his work has also appeared in The Rumpus, The Acentos Review, The Georgia Review, and others. He lives in Chicago, and teaches at Harry S Truman College.