Albert Garcia

February 1997

Not an Every Day Meal

Cervical Cancer—you know,
her reproductive parts,
my father told us.
My mother looked down
at her plate.
We were eating
mashed potatoes, the warm
brown gravy pooling
with butter. Not
an everyday meal—
nicer, a big roast
steaming mid table,
boiled carrots, asparagus
with cheese. And over this, my mother
stoic at her end,
moisture just beginning
in her eyes
as slowly as water comes up
when you tap damp sand
with your foot.
Minutes ago
talk was hunting, football,
the walnut harvest
coming soon.
The pap smear,
my mother started—though
I couldn’t believe
she’d say that—
the doctor called
this spotting business
And although she said
he was full
of hope, that statistics
and hysterectomy
favored complete recovery,
I knew I would lose
my mother, and the eyes
of my sisters across the table
said the same.
My mother said nothing.
My father explained
something about surgery.

I saw the cancer
as something black,
painful, a tar
that pools where you want it
least. Then
things were quiet.
That big roast sat
in the center,
hot in its own braised fat,
drippings I’d always liked
to soak with bread.
I looked at my mother.
She smiled, barely, and said,
The food will get cold.
And because we loved her,
because no one could think
of anything to say,
we ate.

What Comes of Drought

On Walnut Street a wild turkey crashes through
an old woman’s picture window.
Three times this month, on south Main,
sightings of deer wandering lost,
dodging busy traffic.
I read these stories,
then tape the clippings
to my refrigerator door. I have felt it too.
We have all felt it. No rain for three months, the river low,

scummy at the edges. the few salmon
swimming upstream confused. They can’t
find the creeks where they were born.
It’s cyclical, the paper explains,
but cycles mean nothing to wild pigs

filing down from the foothills at night,
rooting around, eating your crops.
Or the senile rancher wandering the highway.
The truck driver said he didn’t see him
until he was in his lights.