My father sits on his island of black rocks. Whitewater roils and boils around his shores. Long ago the Devil hopped through this forest, his searing steps sparking in the night, with each step his heels burned holes into the earth, springs and streams and falls bubbling forth. The Devil’s Hop Yard. The needles the trees shed carpet the floor in a deep red, as if they have been burned or dipped in blood. He doesn’t have to hold me in his arms. He doesn’t have to carry my weight, doesn’t have to feel my warmth against his chest turning to sweat, doesn’t have to sweat in fields or factories or underneath broken down cars. His clenched hands at rest on his thighs. Still. Long before I witness the fevered rage of his drinking, his trembling shoulders, his shaking hands. And his face: hard, chiseled, anvil-like. Yellow, orange, and maroon leaves swirl past his lonely island. I remember a field of sugar cane, their stalks white as bone, as a cold blue moon slowly rose from the sea, figures still bent in the field, their machetes flashing in the moonlight.
NOTE: Ogún, like Vulcan, is a god of fire and metal, a smithy who brought to life the machete, and in some myths brought this world into existence with the knowledge that his work, his striking fire, will never end.
Fred Arroyo is a novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet, and the author of The Region of Lost Names and Western Avenue and Other Fictions, which have both received wide acclaim. He’s currently completing a book of nonfiction stories, Shadows of Palms, and is at work on a new book of fiction. A recipient of an Individual Artist Grant from the Indiana Arts Commission, he has published widely in a variety of literary journals, and is included in the anthologies Camino del Sol: Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing and The Colors of Nature: Essays on Culture, Identity and the Natural World. His fiction writing has been included in the Library of Congress series Spotlight on U.S. Hispanic Writers.
Artwork: Mario Carreño, Sugar-Cane Cutters, 1943