My tongue does not roll;
vibrating with every Ramón,
Perez, and any other word
in the Spanish dictionary
that holds an ‘r.’ Instead it splatters
spit with every word it speaks.
My accent is vacant. It does
not flow with the hidden
melody of cumbias,
salsas, sambas, y bachatas,
twisting and turning
with every word. Rather
it unmelodically tumbles
out, tripping over air.
I can manage Sí o No
questions and ordering
carne asada tampigueña
with a side order of guacamole.
Women and men come up to me,
their accents roll off their tongues
as their words float in the air
like sweet bread at a Mexican bakery.
Their sweet harmonious words
enter into my ears,
a melody of á, é, í, ó, ú.
And all I can say is
The Sun Is Unforgiving
It beats down on my black hair
and claws at my scalp,
infested with dust and pesticide.
It boils my sweat before
perspiring out of my pores;
I stop to take a rest and look up
at the sky, no clouds in sight,
just the unforgiving sun.
I grab my dusted jug of water
and drink. Droplets roll down
my neck as trails of clean
skin are revealed
under layers of dirt and dust;
I look into the haze of the fields.
Rows and rows of fresh
pepinos, aguacates, naranjas,
cilantro, y algodón
melt together under the sun,
all become one.
I look down at my hands,
scarred and stained
from the fluids of the oranges
and prickles of the cotton.
Jugo, sangre, y suciedad
mix together and bake,
dried blood sizzles
under the unforgiving sun.
“There has to be more . . . .”
Every weekend I make my way
to Lupita’s Bakery. It sits on the corner
of my block, four houses down from
mi casa. I walk into the little bakery.
My nose wanders with the sweet
aromas of sugar that float in the air;
harina is lightly dusted on the glass
and walls. Sweet treats sit behind
the dull glass. Conchas coated
with vanilla, strawberry, or chocolate
sugar crust on soft spongy pan.
Little brown puerquitos scamper
around in their pens behind the glass.
Empanadas filled with frescas, pina,
chocolate, o plátano, enclosed in flaky
batter. Tri-colored galletas de azúcar
in pink, yellow, and brown cookie dough.
Pan dulce and other sweet treats rest
behind the glass, ready for picking.
Who raise children while husbands
disappear into dark alleys. Believed
to be dead years ago, only to be with newer
teenage wives. Men sweep away past
lives and existence, to begin again
under a new roof and new esposas.
She acts as both madre y padre,
to teach her sons to be men;
something her husband was not.
She takes on triple shifts as:
chachas, sirvientas, camareras,
and any other peon jobs available
that will feed her expanding family
of children and grandchildren.
For los gringos, she sweeps and mops
floors of mansions. Gold embroidered toilets
and platinum faucets are scrubbed clean
while his wife sunbathes on the balcony. Her
husband yearns for especia latina but he is the first
to cry innocence, that “She came on to me!”
before she is told “You are-oh dismiss-oh.”
She cleans off tables and waits on parejas
y familias. Couples sit across from each
other, fawning, while their future sits a few tables
away with screaming children in high chairs.
French fries fly as parents eat in silence.
They leave only scraps of food and the exact
change tucked between the sal y pimienta.
Sacrifices the chance to find true love,
earned vacations from years of service,
life savings in wilted cream mattresses
and plastic jugs, and life and soul
while niños y niñas explore life’s limitless
opportunities in the outside world.
Something she could not.