Poetic Voices Winner

San Diego 1974

My mom tells me
she was thirteen.
She, my Tia Elidia y mi abuela
had taken the bus to visit
my Tia Rita. She lived in this
apartment by a park. When they got off
the bus and started walking

they passed this front yard BBQ
of pale skinned men
sun burned ignorance
and sky mirrored in their eyes.

The men started shouting.
“Hey you Mexicans…
tacos, enchiladas, margaritas.”

My mom guessed they had never seen
Mexicans before
But mi abuela
Pues nadie se burla de ella
She told her girls to shout back
“hotdogs, hamburgers, french fries!”

My mom laughs now
But she was angry and
Trembled with frustration.
Who knows what else the men shouted
My mom only understood the food.
That’s all she knew.
After all these years she still remembers.
She tells me, “You hold on to the memories that shape you, Mi’ja, and I didn’t know why people are like that. I didn’t know why.”

Sara Villagrana