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
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 © Cameron Hartley | Year Posted 2014