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En la Casa de Mami Tita

By Tatiana Figueroa Ramirez

I wake up to the alarm clocks
of cocks & gallinas struggling
for their corner of the callejón.
Step out
on the preheated concrete.
Stray kittens cross my path.
I evade chicken excretions.
Lizards stand still
as I walk the length of three houses.

A pale jade home smiles at me in the sun
a ramp welcoming me onto her balcón.
I remember her skin as guayaba
with steps signaling the start to her porch.
Her front door is blessed
with the smell of fresh habichuelas.
Open windows & curtains flirt
with the morning breeze.

I enter home & hear
songs of small white houses & jíbaros.
Songs of forgotten writers & my mother’s voices.
Clanking pots & a cucharón serve me a meal
only this home knows.
Metal cups keep water cool.
A ceiling fan fights off mosquitos.
Chanclas gently shuffle over
linoleum covered concrete floors
the start to a tale on the tip of her tongue.

Mami Tita once told me
“You know, they operated on me?
That’s why I only had Teddy, Cuco, & Taty.
After that, I couldn’t have any more kids,
but, at least, it was free & I didn’t die.”
She said this with rice sticking to her lips
& caldo dripping from her bowl.

Outside, cars honk past,
neighbors yell from porch to porch,
& chickens cluck along.
Inside, I spend daylight listening
to songs I’ll never hear again,
tasting food I hope I’ll learn to cook,
& waiting for shuffling chanclas to sit
& tell me a story once more.

Added: Thursday, May 3, 2018  /  Used with permission.
Tatiana Figueroa Ramirez
Photo by Valerie Moreno.

Born in Puerto Rico and raised in the mainland United States, Tatiana Figueroa Ramirez graduated with a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and is a VONA Voices Alumna, having worked with award-winning poets Willie Perdomo and Danez Smith. She currently performs spoken-word in the greater Washington D.C. area and is completing the Poetry Teaching Artist Training Program under Jonathan B. Tucker. She has previously performed in New York, Philadelphia, Miami, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. You can read her work in The Acentos Review, A Gypsy’s Library, Here Comes Everyone, and Queen Mob’s Teahouse, among other publications, or visit her website.

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