by Jacob Shores-Argüello
The pale sound of jilgueros trilling in the jungle.
Abuelo rocks in his chair and maps the birds
in his head, practiced in the geometry of sound.
My uncle stokes the cabin’s ironblack stove
with a short rod. The flames that come are his
loves. I cook—chile panameño, coconut milk—
a recipe I’d wanted to try. Abuelo eats,
suppresses the color that builds in his cheek.
To him the chile is a flash of snake in the mud.
He asks for plain rice, beans. Tío hugs his father,
kneels in front of the fire, whispers away the dying
of his little flames. We soak rice until
the water clouds. On the television, a fiesta…
The person I am showing the poem to
stops reading. He questions the TV,
circles it with a felt pen. “This feels so
out of place in a jungle to me. Can you
explain to the reader why it’s there?”
For a moment, I can’t believe.
You don’t think we have 1930s technology?
The poem was trying to talk about stereotype,
gentleness instead of violence for once.
But now I should fill the little room
of my sonnet explaining how we own a TV?
A shame, because I had a great last line—
there was a parade in it, and a dancing
horse like you wouldn’t believe.
"Workshop" by Jacob Shores-Argüello, from Poem-a-Day. Used by permission of the poet.