Blessing the Animals




Time has come for Father to feed the animals.

He carries a tin can
to a little tin plate at the edge
of the yard
where field meets world,

and birds stop
their chatter.

The animals know
Father has little use for talking.

Squirrels listen to sparrows,
the chipmunk to the squirrel, and all
listen for a whoosh-trail of
his feet in the grass

where the grass snake
makes way
for the worm.

Just another wooly-haired creature, I
perch on the tire swing a few yards away,
to see which orphan
tugs at Father's hand today:

A cahoot of grackles, a murder
of crows,
a one-eyed prairie dog,
and the opossum
are blessed by a tap
of his hand on their furry
or feathery heads.

Father would never say so,
but I know that one day
he climbed the hill
to talk to the wolf
and the wolf closed his jaws.

Each day Father sits alone
at the edge of the field,
el lobo lays down at his feet
and eats from his hand,

instead of from the fields
or the flocks
or the cradles of the people.

I know what Father is thinking
when he goes to the edge of the yard
and looks toward the field.

He thinks of the time
when still, just a boy,
leaving home to follow the crops
of potatoes and sugar-
beets, green beans
and asparagus.
 
When moon became his mother—
and clay-shouldered men,
the lady bug and honey bee,
the migrating blackbird, all
sang him to sleep.

After supper Father collects our dishes,
scrapes frijoles and fidello,
corn meal mush and hominy,
hard-boiled egg yolk
and salt from the plates
for his little tin can
by the sink.

Come evening there is enough
to sweeten
with a spoonful of milk,
to mix sweet mortar
into bread and tortilla bits,
with stems
of cilantro or parsley.
Chicken bones
or a treat of shankbone
are placed to the side, and 

somehow there is always
enough.

Father would never say as much,
but I know that at night, a coyote comes
and picks up the tin plate in his mouth,
and carries it to the eagle,
who flies it to the starving
children of Africa,

and a flock of starlings
carry the leftovers to the poor
children of India.



*Originally published in Southwestern American Literature
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