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386 Spanish Héctor Inchaústegui Cabr al (1912–79) Gentle Song for the Donkeys of My Town Donkey—Saint Joseph’s, and the coal-man’s too— sad vehicle that links the poor bastard and the arrogant rich, you whose ambling trot carries, in early morning, the field hand’s sour sweat transmuted to fragrant fruits, dark yucca, bright green plantain, our native pepper, and the delicate complex leaf of coriander, large and small. If the pregnant girl is nearly due, let her go by donkey; if the old man can barely take another step because the earth is calling him, let him ride the donkey; if the child is too small to take the milk to town, it’s all right, let him go by donkey. . . . Mount of Saint Joseph and the small-town con man, of the accordion player and the schoolteacher whose hair has been gray these thirty years; donkey that brings water, carries precious medicine, donkey whose infancy is sad and short, and whose old age is long and sadder still. . . . Young, you are all ingenuousness, soft eyes, long shaggy pelt and gentleness and wordless love of the thin shade of acacia trees. . . . Héctor Inchaústegui Cabral 387  Later, long fallen ears dead as two useless husks over your noble, heavy cloud of brow. Later, the bitterness of each long trek, burdens—too heavy— bruises—dense and red— and sometimes, in late afternoon, the small white hand of a child stroking slowly your aching lower lip where the thorn no longer finds a foothold for its single cleat. And later still, bare open field, thistles blooming yellow, grass out of reach, well-aimed stones, pitched words, sharp bone slowly piercing your hairless hide, a mass of prickly weeds clinging to rump and feet and lower lip. Donkey—Saint Joseph’s, and the coal-man’s too— sad, slow vehicle that links desperate country need with the town’s pretense of city life, donkey whose infancy is useless and happy and whose old age, like ours, comes to its close at the wide gates of the other world. Rhina P. Espaillat, 2011 ...


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