At home, there was nothing your father
couldn’t turn his work boots into—
a hammer for loose nails, a prop to even
stubborn tables and chairs, a weapon
to end the lives of anonymous insects.
And there were nights when he would sleepwalk,
and out in the yard with nothing but underwear
on, he’d smack together the bottoms of his boots,
as if there were spirits he had to ward off,
as if his past had taken on some once human form,
and to remind him that no one is ever free
of sin, made it its duty to stalk him at home.
And though it lasted no more than a few minutes,
and your mother would wake him up,
bring him back in, you figured that the boots
had done their job, that the reason he never used
sticks, pots or pans, or yelled at the top
of his lungs was because he wanted the spirit
to know exactly who he was,
that he had every right to be at peace
on whatever ground he walked.
“La Bota” was used with permission of the author, Copyright © 2020.
This poem was originally read in the Poetry Unbound episode “Esteban Rodríguez — La Bota.”