The Abuelita Poem

By Paul Martínez Pompa Paul Martinez Pompa
Her brown skin glistens as the sun
pours through the kitchen window
like gold leche. After grinding
the nixtamal, a word so beautifully ethnic
it must not only be italicized but underlined
to let you, the reader, know you’ve encountered
something beautifully ethnic, she kneads
with the hands of centuries-old ancestor
spirits who magically yet realistically posses her
until the masa is smooth as a lowrider’s
chrome bumper. And I know she must do this
with care because it says so on a website
that explains how to make homemade corn tortillas.
So much labor for this peasant bread,
this edible art birthed from Abuelitas’s
brown skin, which is still glistening
in the sun.

Before she died I called my abuelita
grandma. I cannot remember
if she made corn tortillas from scratch
but, O, how she’d flip the factory fresh
El Milagros (Quality Since 1950)
on the burner, bathe them in butter
& salt for her grandchildren.
How she’d knead the buttons
on the telephone, order me food
from Pizza Hut. I assure you,
gentle reader, this was done
with the spirit of Mesoamérica
ablaze in her fingertips.

Paul Martinez Pompa, "The Abuelita Poem" from My Kill Adore Him. Copyright © 2009 by Paul Martinez Pompa. Reprinted by permission of Paul Martinez Pompa.

Source: My Kill Adore Him (University of Notre Dame Press, 2009)

 Paul  Martínez Pompa


Born and raised in suburban Chicago, Paul Martínez Pompa earned his BA in English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago and his MFA in Creative Writing at Indiana University, where he also served as poetry editor for the Indiana Review.
Martínez Pompa’s first book of poetry is entitled My Kill Adore Him (2009). According to the University of Notre Dame Press, the title is “a homophonic translation of the Spanish . . .

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Poems by Paul Martínez Pompa

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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