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The Meaning of Bread and Tortillas

"Mi primo" means my cousin in Spanish. He calls me his "primita"- little cousin. This is the story of how mi primo Taught me about the meaning of bread; Of the meaning of tortillas... He and I are exchanging languages Over Dairy Queen chicken strips; I repeat the words he teaches me Back to him in my all-american White girl accent, Trying to learn how to Salsa With a tongue that only knows How to stumble over the trills And rapid-fire hot-sauce syllables- He makes me say them again and Again until I sound like a distorted Calle 13 track on repeat... Mi primo offers me the bread That came with his meal; I ask him why he doesn't want it. He says he doesn't eat bread; He is Hispanic; he eats tortillas- Do I know tortillas?- He gestures, indicates the Flat, full moon-shaped Circle of a torilla with his hands. Si, I know tortillas. What I want to know is- What the heck do tortillas have to do With whether you eat bread or not? So mi primo tells me una historia About a guy he knows, 20-something and something else... All his family came from Guatemala; He was brought up going to a church With a pastor that preached sermons That trilled like heavenly trumpets; He has skin that was colored warm As if he had grown up kissed by The sun of his family's homeland; He knew how to speak English but His mother tongue was always Spanish- His cousins were his best friends Because being "un Guate" means Knowing the meaning of "la familia"... He learned at age 21 That he was born in America. Eagerly, he shed his Hispanicness like A snake skin that had grown too tight, Clutching at the revelation of his birthplace Like a get-out-of-jail free card, Hides the color of his face behind The red, white, and blue of his Irrevocable Americanness... He doesn't go to church anymore, Because American guys don't Have time for God; He buys big, fancy cars he doesn't have A prayer of paying off because American girls are supposed to like That kind of thing; He tries not to remember The meaning of la familia... And he always eats bread- His tongue has suddenly turned Too American to abide the taste, The flatness, of las tortillas... He is the reason that mi primo cannot Abide the taste of bread, too thick With the flavor of betrayed heritage To sit easy in his stomach... Mi primo offers me, His little blonde all-American cousin, The bread he doesn't want. I wonder if one day he'll Mean the word "primita" enough To offer me a tortilla.

Copyright © | Year Posted 2014

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Date: 2/8/2016 10:37:00 AM
i love this. so many great lines and images. i love this: "rapid-fire hot-sauce syllables"
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Date: 5/15/2014 7:06:00 AM
I like it...there's nothing unwise as making over yourself to be yourself. You always end up losing yourself.
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Book: Shattered Sighs