Poems

Crooked Pinky (from Beneath the Halo)
 
Lisa jutted her hands up to my face, I’m a Rodriguez too.
Got grandma’s pinkies. All us Rodriguez women are crooked
little-finger ladies. We’re buried with beaded rosaries wrapped
snuggly around our clasped palms, crucifixes dangling below
the crook in our pinkies. Lisa feels connected to us. She is
and isn’t. Half-Canadian so she’s a pale-skinned, blue-eyed,
dirty blonde and didn’t grow up eating tacos; at 22
she can’t hold one without the stuffing dangling or falling
out. But the pinky is her proof that she is from this line
of hard, dark-skinned Mexican women, rock candy ladies
that take espinas from nopales with our teeth when a knife
isn’t handy. We are known for starting fights with other women
and even our husbands could (but never would) confess to receiving
a cracked bone or two from a Rodriguez woman’s clenched fist.
The crocheted doilies we make are coasters for our beer. We knit
for our husbands so they’ll know our hands are agile with sharp
objects. Lisa doesn’t know this history, can’t name our abuela’s
hand cream, doesn’t know great tia’s secret handshake. But
she has the crooked pinky every Rodriguez woman carries
as we live our lives any way but straight.
Eden’s peach tree (from Beneath the Halo)
 
Eden gave me two saplings from the peach tree she brought from Mexico, contraband wrapped tightly in a sweater, hidden away from the prying hands of the Border Patrol. The peach tree was from her mother’s ranch in Chihuahua. In Mission, Eden, her husband, three daughters and four sons live together in a two bedroom trailer that the family and neighbors remodeled, securing the hitch to the bed of a cabless truck. She serves me Coke with ice in a recycled Whataburger cup, Whatasized, and points
 
to each of her plants growing in the patches of grass spotting her dirt lawn: cilantro from the nurse in San Juan, roses from la comadre who lives three houses down, pecan tree saplings from the rancher the family picks cotton for, rosemary from the woman they visit in Minnesota where they pick tomatoes, a watermelon bush from her compadre for fixing his shoulder, a grapefruit tree el jefe gave her for Christmas for filling the most sacks with oranges this past picking season, and the prize of Eden’s garden: a peach tree.
 
All she touches bears fruit. She says, Todo toma raíz en este país, in this country everything takes root and grows: a peach tree, a rusted trailer, the children’s hair, the lines on her face—even the dirt flowers.

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