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


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