When We Moved Away from Tía Elia's and Uncle Karel's, 1968
I almost stayed put.
We lived above them, see,
the minute the door creaked open,
me shouting from the stairtop,
"Uncle Kakoo, come get me!"
Tía Elia told me stories day and night,
taught me to draw, paint, write.
I wouldn't climb home
until my eyes had grown
heavy as the whole planet.
She put magic spice in the food,
made it taste like what people
must eat in heaven
or Mexico. She'd sing,
"Sana, sana, colita de rana"
all over my bumps and bruises,
and believe me, they would disappear.
Uncle Karel always wanted me
to teach him to spell
knight, knife, all those silent-letter words,
'cause he escaped from Yugoslavia
when he turned fourteen
and was still learning English.
He learned Spanish pretty well,
Abuelito's kind that calls owls
tecolotes and straws popotes.
Tía Elia's phone conversations
with Tía Chole never got past him.
He taught me to say English in German.
"I vant to go to verk."
Then we tried to add Spanish,
but wound up sounding
like Hansel and Gretel in a taquería.
They named me
And I was the queen of peanut butter
sticking to them
like a sandwich to the roof
of your mouth.
- Brenda Cárdenas