América — a poem by richard blanco

América — a poem by richard blanco wood panel station wagon
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Although Tía Miriam boasted she discovered

the vast majority-a-dozen ways to use peanut butter–

topping for guava shells in syrup,

butter replacement for Cuban toast,

hair conditioner and relaxer–

Mamà never understood things to make

from the monthly five-pound jars

handed by the immigration department

until my pal, Shaun, pointed out jelly.


There is always pork though,

for each birthday and wedding,

whole ones on Christmas and New Year’s Eves,

even on Thanksgiving Day–pork,

fried, broiled or crispy skin roasted–

in addition to cauldrons of black beans,

fried plantain chips and yuca disadvantage mojito.

These products needed a unique visit

to Antonio’s Mercado on a corner of eighth street

where men in guayaberas was in senate

blaming Kennedy for everything–“Ese hijo de puta!”

the bile of Cuban coffee and cigar residue

filling the creases of the wrinkled lips

clinging to 1 another’s lies of lost wealth,

ashamed and empty as hollow trees.


By seven I’d grown suspicious–we remained as here.

Overheard conversations about coming back

had grown wistful and fewer frequent.

I spoke British my parents didn’t.

We didn’t reside in a two story house

having a maid or perhaps a wood panel station wagon

nor vacation camping in Colorado.

No women had hair of gold

none of my siblings or cousins

were named Greg, Peter, or Marsha

i was and not the Brady Bunch.

No black and white-colored figures

on D Reed or on Dick Van Dyke Show

were named Guadalupe, Lázaro, or Mercedes.

Patty Duke’s family wasn’t like us either–

they didn’t have pork on Thanksgiving,

they ate poultry with cranberry sauce

they didn’t have yuca, they’d yams

such as the dittos of Pilgrims I colored at school.


Per week before Thanksgiving

I described to my abuelita

concerning the Indians and also the Mayflower,

how Lincoln subsequently set the slaves free

I described to my parents about

the crimson mountain’s magnificence,

“one if by land, two if by sea”

the cherry tree, the tea party,

the amber waves of grain,

the “masses yearning to become free”

liberty and justice for those, until

finally they agreed:

this Thanksgiving we’d have poultry,

in addition to pork.


Abuelita prepared poor people fowl

as though committing an action of treason,

faking her enthusiasm in my sake.

Mamà set a frozen pumpkin cake within the oven

and eager candied yams following instructions

I converted in the marshmallow bag.

The table was arrayed with gladiolus,

the plattered poultry loomed in the center

on plastic silver from Woolworths.

Everybody sitting in eco-friendly velvet chairs

we’d upholstered with obvious vinyl,

except Tío Carlos and Toti, sitting down

within the folding chairs in the Salvation Army.

I uttered a bilingual blessing

and also the poultry was passed around

just like a bet on Russian Roulette.

“DRY”, Tío Berto complained, and began

to drown the lean slices with pork fat drippings

and cranberry jelly–“esa mierda roja,” he known as it.

Faces fell when Mamá presented her ochre pie–

pumpkin would be a home cure for ulcers, not really a dessert.

Tía María made three models of Cuban coffee

then abuelo and Pepe removed the family room furniture,

placed on a Celia Cruz LP and also the whole family

started to merengue within the linoleum in our apartment,

sweating rum and occasional until they remembered–

it had been 1970 and 46 degrees–

in América.

After repositioning the furnishings,

a suitable darkness filled the area.

Tío Berto was the final to depart.


Delaware Arts Summit 2013 – Richard Blanco – America