Of course, you didn’t listen, but when your mother saw your hair, blonder than you had bleached it before, she didn’t curse you out, didn’t say, in that disappointed Spanish you never learned, that you had ruined who you really were, unless you wanted to look like a gringo, because—and this you thought she thought but never said— your skin already looked like one— pale, and at times—when doused in sunlight and seen at just the right angle—transparent, like that of some exotic fish, and like someone who didn’t look like his parents were from Mexico, and who much less knew what it meant to have to pick, at some point in his life, crops in a field, letting the sun singe more indifference on his skin, while knowing that even if this wasn’t the case, he’d still be different, that wherever he went some would stare, some would look away.
For days, your father kept his hand hidden, tucked it at an angle where it seemed like it wasn’t needed, until your mother became suspicious, and without warning during dinner, grabbed his arm, slammed it on the table, and listened, after he grunted, cursed, spewed phrases in Spanish you had never heard, to the details of his accident, how the brick tore open the top of his hand, how he thought it would heal with faucet water, ointment, prayer, how he worked half-day shifts through the pain, found new ways to carry plywood and rebar, hoping, even when he couldn’t move his fingers, that his body would heal as it healed before, that he’d never have to ask for help.
ESTEBAN RODRÍGUEZ is the author of six poetry collections, most recently Ordinary Bodies (word west press 2022), and the essay collection Before the Earth Devours Us (Split/Lip Press 2021). He is the interviews editor for the EcoTheo Review, senior book reviews editor for Tupelo Quarterly, and associate poetry editor for AGNI. He currently lives in South Texas.
Cover image by Sarah Jane Sutterfield.
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