Last week my family lost our beloved Mamita, my grandmother. This is a poem I’ve written as I process a grief that could never find adequate words.

 

Can you make it like it used to be?
peeling oranges and tangerines from Mamita’s trees?
you can keep the grapefruit though, I’m good.
Tito Gary sings on the CD, Tita Horten is visiting
Lolo belts Sinatra, crunching on chicharrones
meanwhile, we’re being scolded
for playing in “the green room”
with the fancy pillows and
framed pics of their eleven kids
and countless grandchildren.
Tita Diane is helping in the kitchen
Tita Quela and Gabin are laughing about something
Tito Juan and Javi are visiting from Miami
Tito Andy and Robby make us all cry-laugh
you can hear my mom’s voice from all the way in the back
(she’s not even yelling)
Tita Liza and Gina are on the back porch
Tito Gary’s watching the Bulls game, of course.
But I’m with my cousins
we’re contriving a foolproof performance,
with choreography we’ll convince our parents
to let us all sleep over.
The titas and titos sit at the “adult table”
(Mamita made the best pot roast again)
Unspoken rule: the loudest rules
they get to tell the story
with five other angles told simultaneously
good luck keeping up, we’re
a dull roar continuously
Lolo’s puns and Mamita’s “Aha!” laugh interject
we’re halo-halo, mix-mix
Tagalog and English
y un poco de español
I somehow follow the convos
but then get pulled
to play Sonic or cards
or learn a new dance move (it’s sad I still can’t dance)
Mom lets Mo and I stay long
so we get to play mahjong
and eat pakwan seeds and all things salty
I take too long to build my wall (Mamita says)
excitedly shout, “Pong!”
but Tita Liza wins…again.
If I’m lucky enough to sleep over
there’s fried egg and toast in the morning
and café con leche, claro
I might see Tito Gary reading his Bible
on the back porch
I’ll probably see what Oita’s doing today
or go play basketball with Gab at the park
you know,
another family beach day would be nice.
I kiss every cheek before I leave,
and Mamita’s twice
she’ll walk me out and
wave as I drive
away
I know we’ll be back
next week, same time
I don’t know “goodbye.”