When I learned he was to live with us,
I found my mother’s pan. With reverence,
I ran my fingers across the sooted basin:
dry and cracking, oily and fragrant. It sweat
to my touch, keen to make our mutual offering.
I scored the skin of a pig and laid it, fat glistening,
on the charred iron. The breath of
the preheated oven cast a silent
blessing on the flesh. It rendered slowly,
melting all day, until it could be jarred.
Before the sun broke the clouds open, I awoke.
From the refrigerator, I took the lard in my
palms—a small child— and worked in the annatto:
seeds the color of clay bleeding, gave in to the soft
kneading, drained themselves and were strained away.
Even in the heat, the garden offered its sparse miracles:
garlic and onions pushed from the dry earth bulbous
and full, crisp peppers and plump tomatoes hung from
withering plants, bouquets of cilantro and oregano sprung
like the last hairs on a balding crown.
It was ritual: to cut, to crush, combine, cook, cull
from each gift an essence that enriches the whole, to yield
mere ounces of a simple red base. On the day
of his arrival, I ran to the jar of my small prize, poised
to finally prepare a meal for him. But when I came to
the shelf that had been keeping it, there was an eggplant
in its place: lacquered and odorless. He announced himself
with the slam of the front door. And I hid, in the shadow
of my refrigerator, to collect my sinking stomach into a smile,
a hello, a handshake. A greeting in which he and I
lost my name. In the morning I found him in the kitchen,
barefoot and shirtless, frying eggs in my mother’s pan.
Robert Américo Esnard was born and raised in the Bronx, NY. He studied Linguistics and Cognitive Science at Dartmouth College. His work has been published by or is forthcoming in The Acentos Review, Alternating Current Press, Alternative Field, Bat City Review, Cutbank, Glass, Lunch Ticket, New York Quarterly, Oxford Public Philosophy, Passengers Journal, and several anthologies. He is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet.