Raleigh Review
501(c)(3) Nonprofit 
EIN: 27-2644341
ISSN: 2169-3943​ 
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 by Esteban Rodríguez

At the end of every year, as nightfall dragged
its constellations across the barbed horizon,
and the barbecue smoke, billowing like ceremonial
incense, fogged the already foggy edges of this scene,
you’d watch, from the picnic table, your uncles
standing where the moonlit fields began.
There’d be five, maybe six of them, your mother’s
brothers and those married to your aunts, all
with a koozied beer in hand, and guts, hanging
over their belt buckles, to match at least one
of your ideas of manliness. For hours, they’d talk
in mumbled phrases about some aspect of work:
the cleanest rest stops in Texas, the truck engines
beyond repair, the cows whose bodies refused
to die—their stunned heads banging against
the killing floor—and though your father sometimes
joined, spoke about the foundation of a plaza
he helped lay, he’d leave, the way he’d leave
in the middle of everything, without saying
a word, while you, cautious of your distance,
crept closer in, unsure, however, what they meant
when they began thrusting their hips, slapping
the air, and pulling the hair of the invisible figure
in front of them; each repeating the motions
in some shape or form, until, a handful of beers later,
an uncle would mention that midnight was near,
and another would head inside the house, bring
his shotgun out, and insist they all take turns cocking
the barrel at the spokes of fireworks, or at the capsized
moon, or at a random spot in the sky that symbolized
everything that had built up over the past year,
and that only they, convinced this was the way
to renew themselves, could aim at, pierce.