Esteban Rodriguez Curios

Instead of china edged in gold, silver, lilac,

or pairs of porcelain angels with undersized wings,

there were your mother’s rooster figurines, curios

lined in the kitchen’s display cabinet, bought

at thrift stores, flea markets, or at that roadside stand

one afternoon, where a lawnchair-lounging woman

you mistook for the pottery itself – her face as rough

as every water fountain, pot and statue – sold her two

for the price of one. Though your mother had

her reasons, you questioned why the bottom rows

were brightly painted, feathers flaring outward, wattles

sagging with distinction, while those on the top

grew darker, more serious, bronze, brass, as black

as obsidian, and perhaps as sharp as it too if you

had dared to touched them, explore their weight,

their texture, their meaning. Maybe, you thought,

they served as reminders of her home country,

of an animal she grew up with, cleaned, cradled, fed,

or that you imagined she watched on evenings

when her father and a handful of men gathered

by the side of the barn – hay stacked in a circle,

moon propped in the middle, silhouetting two figures

dropping their fighters on the ground, and gazing

at the blur of feathers and blood your mother

turned away from, the way you turned every time

your father – sweat-soaked, stoic, and shirtless –

scuttled into the yard, lifted the fowls riddled

with lice, and, as though he wanted you to see this

from the porch steps where you sat, began wringing

their necks, squeezing their scarred and scabbed flesh

till you no longer heard a sound.

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