By Gabriel Vazquez

Mami says, “Venga hija, bring spiced meat,

raisins and big plump olives dotted red.” 

She watches as it bubbles.

The simmer keeping tempo with the carols as they play

in a comforting predictable loop.

It’s a moment controlled by some instinct

embedded deep within a cultural DNA.

Her voice, like an old phonograph skips lyrics

which promptly and merrily set flight

to thoughts unspoken. 

Many grateful hours pass

as these tradiciones set soul and home


Her back stands in celebrated ancestral pain.  

  She softly stretches and moans.  

The green bananas are all grated;

a testament to the strength of a 1940’s woman.  

The batter dries hard on her skin

into miniature casts of proud maternal hands.  

Off, it flakes.  

“Look mommy,

new fallen snow on the fire escape!”

“Cut the string mijo, cut the string.”

Her voice an echo from centuries past.

Joy and exhaustion coalesce as her hand slips.  

Inherited blood always adds

a necessary bittersweet flavor.  

Wrapped in a bandage,

tied and boiled.  

“Estoy bien, hija.”  

“I’m fine, son.”  

She gives me the smile of a kitchen caroler,  

the smile of a kitchen dancer.  

No, it’s the smile of a Latina sugar plum fairy.  

Her lips flutter as a song comes out

and the sabor goes in. 

Her art pleases her trained taste buds,

a gift passed down through generations.

“How does it taste, mijo?”  

It’s a gift mommy,

Better than bien.