Luisa A. Igloria
Zafra’s a town in Spain between
Badajoz and Seville, where
yearly at Carnival, they celebrate
the Festival of Fat.
Exactly what’s involved, I don’t know;
except that a number of pig products are sampled
with local wines in the plaza. Zafra
is also my late father’s middle name; I remember
visits in the summer
from his cousins – three
who liked to dress
to the nines in velvet or lace,
dark stockings, cologne-soaked
shawls (they were most
partial to lavender water) –
resulting in long sessions of reminiscence
about their proud name, their origins.
Quadroons, I’m almost sure, were part of that history:
but you’d never know it, the way they carried on.
Peel back the Spanish, the fair mestiza skin,
their startling eyes of silvery blue-grey –
orthographies of being, mixed on the slate;
colonials bred in the tropics.
Nunca, I can almost hear them say:
Our blood’s not dark but regal. I’d counter difference
makes the sausage sweeter, more complex
to the palate – chopped bits of odds and ends
linked in the casing with
meats of finer pedigree.
Kith and kin saffroned
in a spicy mix, hot
juices feeding flame to coals beneath the grill.
That must be why Ziryab the Moorish chef
introduced the custom of dining that begins with soup
and ends with dessert: to pace the plot,
high drama needing room to breathe around the table
of extended family. When the in-laws visited, did mother
grit her teeth as she peppered the steaks and butterflied
the shrimp? I’ve read of maids who spit on the soup or
filet mignon before they bring it upstairs
on a silver tray to their cruel masters –
every bite henceforth a spell, mingled with the salt
of their unredeemed labors.
Do you miss the pit of the olive as you suck
on its briny flesh? Is the crackling rind
carved from the back of the cochinillo, lechón
de leche? Milk pig stuffed with aromatic herbs,
beautiful in its roasted glory: lick its glossy
caramel surface before your mouth absorbs its
animal nature, changed by anthropology
and fire somehow into a newly civilized thing.
Luisa A. Igloria is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize, the world’s first major award for ecopoetry, selected by former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. She is the author of Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (selected by Mark Doty for the 2014 May Swenson Prize), Night Willow (2014), and many other works. She teaches on the faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University (Virginia, US).