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The Red Sweater

By Joseph O. Legaspi

slides down into my body, soft
lambs wool, what everybody
in school is wearing, and for me
to have it my mother worked twenty
hours at the fast-food joint.
The sweater fits like a lover,
sleeves snug, thin on the waist.
As I run my fingers through the knit,
I see my mother over the hot oil in the fryers
dipping a strainer full of stringed potatoes.
In a twenty hour period my mother waits
on hundreds of customers: she pushes
each order under ninety seconds, slaps
the refried beans she mashed during prep time,
the lull before rush hours, onto steamed tortillas,
the room's pressing heat melting her make-up.
Every clean strand of weave becomes a question.
How many burritos can one make in a continuous day?
How many pounds of onions, lettuce and tomatoes
pass through the slicer? How do her wrists
sustain the scraping, lifting and flipping
of meat patties?           And twenty

hours are merely links
in the chain of days startlingly similar,
that begin in the blue morning with my mother
putting on her polyester uniform, which,
even when it's newly-washed, smells
of mashed beans and cooked ground beef.

Added: Monday, June 30, 2014  /  Used with permission.
Joseph O. Legaspi

Joseph O. Legaspi is the author of Imago (CavanKerry Press), and two chapbooks: Aviary, Bestiary (Organic Weapon Arts) and Subways (Thrush Press).  Recent works appeared in Poets.org, jubilat, diode, BLOOM, The Journal, Painted Bride Quarterly, Water~Stone Review, and the anthologies Language for a New Century (W.W. Norton), Collective Brightness (Sibling Rivalry Press), Flicker and Spark (Low Brow Press) and Coming Close (Prairie Lights/University of Iowa Press). A recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation and NYFA, he co-founded Kundiman (www.kundiman.org), a non-profit organization serving Asian American poetry.

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