my small fingers curl around a cow’s teat. i point
it in the direction of the pail below. i don’t want to hurt
the cow & tug gently. i look up at my papi wondering why

there isn’t any milk & he laughs. says no hubieran aguantado vivir
aqui. he crouches, places his callused hands on the base
of two teats, & tugs. milk shoots out, hissing as it fills the pail.

a tail of steam rises from the top. at the house where my papi
grew up we drink the milk meant for the mouth of another
child. we sit at a table where a thin layer of plastic protects

the white lace beneath. outside, chickens run across the yard.
a bag of maiz sits in a shed. here there are no video games
to play & the only television in the house has knobs. the life  

here is very different from the way you’ve grown up my papi says.
i think what he means is that he was born into work
& i was born into a crib. that he is one of fifteen sets of teeth.

that he left middle school to raise the backs
of fields. that he lied about his age when trying to find
work in the united states. said he was eighteen when he was

only sixteen. i don’t know who my papi is without sweat.
without his rough fingers, his mustache. i have never seen
a single photograph of him as a boy.



Alfredo Aguilar is the son of Mexican immigrants. His work has appeared or is currently forthcoming in Winter Tangerine, Vinyl, Anomaly, & elsewhere. He lives in North County San Diego.