I first heard the word
“cuchifrito” in a movie
about Miguel Piñero,
an NYC Puerto Rican
poet whose mind itched
for words and heroin
to soothe the childhood scars
burning his skin.

I asked my father
about cuchifrito
and he complained
of Pennsylvania Puerto Ricans
passing pig ears
across the counter,
not knowing how
to clean and fry
sliced intestines
for real Boricuas.

I stood in the kitchen
with a quiet smile
the day my stepmother
made cuchifrito.
My father pointed
to his plate, declared
that I too “needed to know
how to eat shit
in this world.”

But my stepmother
insisted I would never
eat cuchifrito.

And my ears burned
when my father left
the room, kept burning
as I filled my plate,
chewed and swallowed,
chewed and swallowed.

–“Cuchifrito” was first published in North American Review in 2009

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