Spring 2001 vol 1.1
Aguardiente / Firewater
Virgil Suárez
for Gaylord Brewer & Bob Hicok

Friends, when we speak of hands, we speak
of dead frigate birds, or ash-colored fish

poisoned on the shores of our daily labor.
My father never came home in a good mood.

Had I spent one more year at his house,
I would have greeted him at the door, a bottle

of firewater (“aguardiente”), in one hand,
a guitar in the other, if I could play one,

and a dagger too. We’d take turns strumming
decimas guajiras, putting down two-finger shots,

and placing the dagger in our mouths, our fat
tongues would bleed. When we were good

and drunk, we’d take turns playing that bar game
where you place your hand on the table, spread

your fingers apart, and watch as the other person
plunges the dagger as fast as he could between

your own fingers. I have seen this in noir films—
I am convinced we could have been closer,

my father and I, before he died. I am convinced
I would have known the power of my hands,

how easily they could pluck my bitter tongue out
of my mouth in one flash-yank for saying this now.