Poem: Autumn Ritual

(Published in The Sonora Review, Issue 74)


We leave you in the dark, always

in pre-dawn darkness, la madrugada,

in hopes of making it to Nebraska

or Kansas by nightfall. With square blank

stares, you watch us cram the old Plymouth

with as much stuff as we can:


School clothes bought in Grafton

or Grand Forks. (No need to take work

clothes; we’ll need them again next summer.)

Pots. Pans. Tools. An empty two-pound

Folgers Coffee can to pee in to cut down

on the number of stops.


We leave you to fend for yourself,

door and windows shut but not locked

(there are no locks in our North Dakota).

The warmth of the cast-iron wood

stove will linger for an hour or two,

then the Red River Valley frigidness


will settle in until our return in spring.

You will welcome visitors in our absence.

Not hobos or bums (there are none

in our North Dakota) but rats and mice

and other vermin. And powdered

black dirt howling as it blows


in from the Canadian plains.

And we leave you in silence,

cold and piercing, broken only

by the wail of the wind as it fills

the vacuum we leave behind.

The engine starts and hums as we


clamor on board. My father behind

the wheel. My mother next to him.

My older brother Norberto next to her.

From the back we watch you

slide out of sight, followed

by the other dark houses in the camp.


Soon there’s nothing to see except

for the lights from the dashboard,

flickering and shimmering like prayers

in a chapel. And then our silence is broken

as we hear my mother begin her own:

en el nombre sea de Dios.


About juanzqui7

Former Texas reporter, columnist and editorial writer.
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6 Responses to Poem: Autumn Ritual

  1. Allan Van Fleet says:

    Lovely. You put us there.

    Allan Van Fleet 713-826-1954


  2. Ann Chapman says:

    You help us understand what we need to understand.

  3. Mandy says:

    Very nice Uncle

  4. Allan Van Fleet says:

    I have a solo ticket for Thursday Nov 15. Would you like to have it?


    Allan Van Fleet 713-826-1954

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