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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
Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

Joseph O. Legaspi is the author of the poetry collections Threshold (2017) and Imago (2007), both from CavanKerry Press; and three chapbooks: Postcards (Ghost Bird Press, 2018), Aviary, Bestiary (Organic Weapon Arts, 2014), and Subways (Thrush Press, 2013). His works have appeared in POETRY, New England Review, World Literature Today, Best of the Net, and the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day. He cofounded Kundiman, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to nurturing generations of writers and readers of Asian American literature. Visit the Kundiman website. He resides with his husband in Queens, NY.

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