The Indian in the Kitchen

Her face is Central America —
from the edges, oceans stretch out.
Quietly, quietly, the years have left her,
traveling by ship.

To this one I would say, Tell me the story
you have not told anyone,
the tale braided into your skull and tied with a string.
Describe the sky on the night you wandered out into the village,
calling for your father who left Huehuetenango
and never returned.
The shift in your mother’s eyes —
how suddenly there was a rock ledge no one could climb.
Tell me of the brothers dancing with piglets
the day before they were sold
or the nights the goats were restless in their pens
and the rooster crowed at the wrong hour,
before Volcan Fuego spit hot sand into the air.
My hands would learn the colors your hands know,
blue and purple, threaded together on the loom.
How you weave the ducks and frogs
so they line up end-to-end across the cloth.

Listen, no one introduces us,
yet all evening it is you I am visiting.
When you bring the tea, limes neatly arranged on a saucer,
I try to catch you, the brown valleys of your eyes,
so you would know I am watching, listening,
I hear you dry the plates.
Always your gaze misses me,
you are looking somewhere else,
the couch, the wall,
as if you believe what the days have told you.
The days — small coins given in exchange
for an egg, a broom.
The days which say you are a simple woman,
there is no story larger than the mashed black bean,
the bird’s clean cage.

FROM Words Under the Words
(The Eighth Mountain Press, 1995)

Printed from Cerise Press:

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