My Tía’s Redención, A Lyric Poem

My Tía’s Redención, A Lyric Poem

Click, click, click. Medium blue flames licked
the bottom of the cellophane-flaking, greased stained pan.
Raw white sopes lovingly slid into crackling oil,
never measured, perfectly patted into form;
she gracefully dragged queso fresco up and down,
each clump falling in submission.
We gathered, each knowing our place, around
bowls of crisp, shredded iceberg lettuce,
tender meat that slid down your throat,
Cebolla, limón, tomate, chile,
creamy black beans that spread like warm butter,
all elegantly laid on the unsteady four-legged board
we trusted enough to call the mesa;
we straddled chairs that were made to be
ornamental and outdoors,
careful not to get a splinter, trusting the protection
from thin cushions that lost a little bit more filling
each time they were sat on.

This sanctuary protected my Tía
from vicious judgments, unmerciful grudges
for forbidden passions as a freshman at Pasadena High;
for forfeiting motherhood and Juan Carlos
in callow obedience to Abuela.

En la cocina, no one remembered to question her dignity
once her brown hands, temporarily in charge,
went to work to give us intoxicating
warmth, safety, love in each mouthful.
I can still feel the guilt sink heavily in my stomach.
Her children, my brother and I, Raúl; never
letting her forget her place.

We used to forget to leave any food for her.
She cried every time.

Jackie Loew teaches 8th Grade English at Southeast Polk Junior High. She lives in Ankeny with her husband and two sons. She wrote this piece for a creative writing class she took in the fall.