Barbara Brinson Curiel


My Father Comes Home From Work

My father comes home from work

sweating through layers of bleached cotton t-shirts

sweating through his wool plaid shirt.

He kisses my mother

starching our school dresses

at the ironing board,

swings his metal lunchbox

onto the formica kitchen table

rattling the remnants

of the lunch she packed

that morning before daylight:

crumbs of baloney sandwiches,

empty metal thermos of coffee,

cores of hard red apples

that fueled his body through

the packing and unpacking of sides

of beef into the walk-in refrigerators

at James Allen and Sons Meat Packers.

He is twenty-six.

Duty propels him each day

through the dark to Butcher Town

where steers walk streets

from pen to slaughterhouse.

He whispers Jesus Christ

to no one in particular.

We hear him-- me,

my sister Linda, my baby brother Willy,

and Mercedes la cubana’s daughter

who my mother babysits.

When he comes home

we have to be quiet.

He comes into the dark living room.

Dick Clark’s American Bandstand

lights my father’s face

white and unlined

like a movie star’s.

His black hair is combed

into a wavy pompadour.

He sinks into the couch,

takes off work boots

thick damp socks,

rises to carry them

to the porch.

Leaving the room

he jerks his chin toward

the teen gyrations on the screen,

says, I guess it beats carrying

a brown bag.

He pauses,

for a moment

to watch.

Barbara Brinson Curiel has poems in the forthcoming collection Cantar de Espejos: Poesía Testimonial Chicana por Mujeres to be published in Mexico and in the journal Huizache. She is the author of the poetry collection Speak to Me From Dreams (Third Woman Press) and is a fellow of CantoMundo, the national organization for Latino poets. Barbara is a professor in the departments of Critical Race, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and English at Humboldt State University.