Mother Picking Produce
She scratches the oranges then smells the peel,
presses an avocado just enough to judge its ripeness,
polishes the Macintoshes searching for bruises.
She selects with hands that have thickened, fingers
that have swollen with history around the white gold
of a wedding ring she now wears as a widow.
Unlike the archived photos of young, slender digits
captive around black and white orange blossoms,
her spotted hands now reaching into the colors.
I see all the folklore of her childhood, the fields,
the fruit she once picked from the very tree,
the wiry roots she pulled out of the very ground.
And now, among the collapsed boxes of yucca,
through crumbling pyramids of golden mangos,
she moves with the same instinct and skill.
This is how she survives death and her son,
on these humble duties that will never change,
on those habits of living which keep a life a life.
She holds up red grapes to ask me what I think,
and what I think is this, a new poem about her-
the grapes look like dusty rubies in her hands,
what I say is this: they look sweet, very sweet.
Contemplations at the Virgin de la Caridad Cafetería, Inc.
Que será, el café of this holy, incorporated place,
the wild steam of scorched espresso cakes rising
like mirages from the aromatic waste, waving
over the coffee-glossed lips of these faces
assembled for a standing breakfast of nostalgia,
of tastes that swirl with the delicacy of memories
in these forty-cent cups of brown sugar histories,
in the swirling froth of café-con-leche, que será,
what have they seen that they cannot forget—
the broad-leaf waves of tabaco and plaintains
the clay dust of red and nameless mountains,
que será, that this morning I too am a speck;
I am the brilliant guitar of a tropical morning
speaking Spanish and ribboning through potions
of waist-high steam and green cane oceans,
que será, drums vanishing and returning,
the African gods that rule a rhythmic land
playing their music: bongó, bembé, conga;
que será, that cast the spells of this rumba,
this wild birthright, this tropical dance
with the palms of this exotic confusion;
que será, that I too should be a question,
que será, what have I seen, what do I know—
culture of café and loss, this place I call home.
Richard Blanco (Madrid, 15 februari 1968)