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An Altar for My Father
by Erika Ayón
One day, I will build an altar for you.
I'll place shelled peanuts because they were your favorite.
The stems of roses because you never liked the petals,
but green you loved, the dirt you loved, earth you loved.
I'll bottle it for you, this earth, pack some up from
the places closest to you. First, I'll go to San Martin,
Bolaños, Jalisco, where you were born, and fill my pockets
with soil from the highest point where you used to take
the livestock to graze the pasture, where you once fell off
a tree, where your mother's grave is found. On the way
back, somewhere between Mexico and the United States,
I'll stomp my feet, let the dirt rise, catch the dust
into mason jars. I'll drive to Fresno, where you
worked as a farmworker, steal fistfuls of field.
I'll stop at the race tracks, where you gambled, kneel
down, run my fingers along the ground, gather some
for luck. Last, I'll end up at home, where you died
that August morning, as Amá and Yenni read Bible
passages while you drifted; Corinthians 13, "Love is
patient, love is kind." Psalm 23, "Through the valley
of the shadow of death." I'll go outside, seize handfuls
of land from where the cacti grow, where Amaacute; buried
the yellow canary, the dark pants, and white t-shirt
you passed away in. I will bring all this back to you,
to your altar. This will be my offering. The only way
I know how to bring you peace. I'll add the dirt
I have collected to the stems of roses, boxes
with bits of grass, a jewelry box filled with rocks,
and if possible a piece of blue sky.