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“Woodstove of My Childhood”

by Levi Romero

woodstove of my childhood

where potatoes cut like triangle chips were fried
in manteca de marrano

woodstove of lazy autumn smoke swirling away
to nowhere

woodstove of December
evacuating the cold chill at sunrise

woodstove of celebration and mourning

of post-World War II Korea y Vietnam

woodstove corner that kept vigil over
drunken nodding remembrance

woodstove corner where uncles primos compadres
gathered on visits from Califas

woodstove corner with a warm ear for nostalgia

where Mama Ane stirred the atole and wrung her hands
thumb over thumb praying for her children’s children’s children

woodstove that witnessed six decades washing its face at the vandeja

that saw western swing dancing in dim lantern flame

that watched Elvis come in from across the llano strumming
a mail-order Stella and singing in Spanish

woodstove
of the feast lamb tied up under the crabapple tree

of early sour cherries ripening above the cornstalk horizon

of neighbors bartering a cup of sugar
in exchange for mitote and conversation

woodstove of rain tenderly pouring into the afternoon
and salt sprinkling onto the patio from the mouth of the porch

woodstove of the nighttime crackling softly

of harmonious harmonica medleys
blowing before bedtime prayer

woodstove facing John F. Kennedy’s
picture on the wall

woodstove of Protestant Sundays
ringing without bells

woodstove of dark earth
fat worms and acequias

woodstove of 1960s propaganda
and all the rich hippies knocking poorly at the screen door

woodstove of private crazy laughter

of woodpeckers pecking through rough-hewn
barn timbers only to meet the sky

of rabbits nervously nibbling evening away
in the arroyo

of the water bucket banging and splashing
all the way home

woodstove of the water drop sizzle

of buñuelos and biscochitos and flour on the chin

of chokecherry jam dropping out
from the end of a tortilla

woodstove
that heard Mentorcito’s violin bringing in the new year

that saw Tío Eliseo bring in an arm-load of wood

that heard Tío Antonio coming down the road
whistling a corrido and swinging his cane

woodstove of the blessed noontime
and Grandma Juanita heating up the caldito

woodstove of the sanctified and untamed holy spirit

of the dream awake dreamers
prophesizing in the beginning how the end would come

of creaking trochil gates left open forever

of twisted caved-in gallineros rocking
in weeping April wind

of abandoned orchards waist deep
in desánimo

of teardrops that held back the laughter

of the penitente procession moving through the hills
for the soul of the village

woodstove of the wounded faithful proudly
concealing their scars

woodstove of armpit farts and bedtime giggles

of pitchforks and axes under the bed in case of intruders

of coffee cans filled with everything but coffee

of ten cents for a cream soda at Corrina’s

of strawberry Nehis and a bag of chili chips at Medina’s

of a handful of bubble gum acá Santos’s

woodstove of genius wisdom dressed up as the village idiot

of hand-me-down stories locked away
in the dispensa

of bien loco local heroes cracking homeruns
Saturday afternoons en la cañada

woodstove
of all that and more of all that disappearing

as children played hide ’n’ seek in that abandoned goodtime feeling
while stumbling on the footsteps of tradition

woodstove that heard the fall of a people rising in silence

that died of a loneliness without cure
that cured itself in the company

of the so many more lonely

woodstove of my childhood

~ ~ ~ ~

Poet Levi Romero was born and raised in the Embudo Valley of northern New Mexico. He works as an architect in Albuquerque.