story is about swellings and slick slidings,
about bodies that grow and others that slide out
wet, like mangos, gold flesh fermenting in saltwater,
about a woman biting into the salty juice alive
on her tongue, filling her mouth, piece after piece
until, in a small kitchen, she finishes the jar,
smiling and chewing in silence,
her friend's eyes open as wells.
The story is about daughters
and what they know of the dark,
her youngest who feels the unseen,
what the woman doesn't, her body,
casual in its bleedings, this time no curdling
when she eats tortillas y queso blanco warmed in the sun.
"Ay los hombres," she concludes, "they're different
even before a speck of them is visible."
The story is about lemons, twenty-five tart moons
she digs into salt, chewing lemon after lemon,
lips hungry, open, unlike that youngest daughter,
lips shut for months, eyes smaller,
smaller as the mother's body swells, the girl who runs
into the room at the first cry, presses the baby,
slick as peeled fruit, to her breast, says, "You
were killing me. Mami, I suffered. Es mío."
The mother thinks of them back in El Salvador,
when she slices limones or peels mangos.
Yellow scents pucker her memory,
her mouth then and its cravings, the aching
for fruit and hunger for grains of sweet salt. Her body
thicker now, she slides a slice of mango between her lips,
laughs about once eating twenty-five frosted lemons,
her mouth full of her own stories.
Selected by Adrienne Rich for inclusion in
The Best American Poetry 1996