Poems by Margaret Elysia Garcia
No one would trade lunches--
Mine wrapped in paper towel or wax paper
A hard bread biodegrading
The oil and peanuts separating
Stuck in my teeth, gluing
shut my mouth.
They didn’t have sprouts or yogurt or bagels or boysenberry jam.
Those foreign things: communist, suspicious—Californian.
My mama smothered Southern grits in wheat germ, fried okra with homegrown jalapenos and wrapped it all in tortillas,
the South made tolerable, she’d say. 1977
Mama made sugar cookies without sugar.
Stuck whole carrot sticks, hairy but clean in my lunch box with a whole apple.
Other children’s lunches were desserts:
A swirl of peanut butter and jelly from the same jar on magical Wonderbread
Hostess pies and sweet pickles.
Full thermoses of Kool-Aid.
My mama said I was welcome to the cafeteria lunch, if I didn’t like what she packed.
But Augusta in the late 70s had no vegetarian option,
And the birthday party invitations got fewer and fewer
After I sat quietly and ate biscuits while others ate BBQ and mayonnaise salads.
I’m gonna get beat up, mama.
I needed a lunch box from Kmart with a matching thermos and a tv show tie-in
That would have solved all my problems.
A Bionic Woman or Happy Days.
One day my mama brought home astronaut Tang
I snuck into the cupboard
Put the crystals on my tongue like pop rocks.
Just enough to feel okay--
Not enough to blast out of there.
Inventory of the Borders of Daughter Land
My daughter asks who we are—who indeed.
We are from a land:
Of no apologies
Of no forgiveness
Of something done when you are young
Held against you.
We are from a land of set bedtimes and daily chores:
Nothing in the sink, nothing on the floor,
no one at the door.
We are Saturday morning loud: Mexican music on exquisite stereos in stucco houses.
Dance and clean and bleach and bleach clean and dance and dance.
We are a family of latinas:
Who label each other too white when we succeed,
Brown when things go down.
Our words imprinted on both our
Light and dark skins--
we are brown girls—but not that kind of brown
We are white girls— but not that kind of white.
We are with and without Spanish.
With pretty words sent to conquer us.
We are from pristine vehicles and manicured lawns because
someone at a gas station called our grandparents ‘dirty’ on their way home from work.
We are pretty smart for a--
We are degrees by degree.
We are rosaries and candles.
We are from you don’t retire; you work until you die.
We are generosity that doesn’t call attention to itself
We are cash only don’t use credit
happiness is for later--
(when you can afford it).
We are from don’t back down.
We are from having the last word—even if the last word goes unspoken.
We are dark lipstick and roses
Blue robes and gold stars
Sinners and Saints
Mary and Tonantzin
Hoop and heels
Gold crosses to bear
Gringa. Gavacha. Pocha.
Las Viejas (an elegy)
My nina is gone.
Met my mother in the schoolyard sandbox
And translated the world to my English-less mother
Till she had the new words to survive on her own.
Godmother Mary wrote textbooks and taught Spanish and English
And lived in those spaces between a Master’s degree on the Westside
And her children and the run out husband on the Eastside.
And the diabetes.
And the disappointment
And the decades later--
On the phone, once a week, the two Viejas,
Talked like old neighborhood prize fighters
From a neighborhood neither has seen in years.
Las Viejas reminding us:
A Mexican mother’s love is conditional.
That we owe them our best
While they owe us nothing.
That we should be grateful
For their voices in our heads.
Mi nina y mi mama:
Inoculating us against a world, the white wall
of aggressive politeness; not afraid to blow the horn
on everything and watch it all tumble down.
Mi Madre vs. the White MIL
My mother offers
to put hexes
on our exes
threatens to haunt us
when she’s dead
if we don’t
do our best
to rise above
what’s thrown down.
mother in law
told her boys
to make money;
insists she doesn’t
see color; wears
red, white, and blue
for the bottom line
Of brown kids in cages
who look like mine.
Girl Child’s Summer Job at the Golf Course
Third customer of the day holds his
four fingers of his right hand right in her face and yells:
He pantomimes out to the patio.
She gets the menus, brings them water, recites the specials.
“Oh” he says bringing his voice down,
“You speak English.”
Margaret Elysia Garcia is the author of the ebook Sad Girls & Other Stories and the audiobook Mary of the Chance Encounters. Her new collection of short stories: Other Californias will be published by Tolsun Press in 2022. She’s the co-founder and head writer of Pachuca Productions--a Latina theatre troupe producing original and social justice plays in the northeastern Sierra. She teaches creative writing and theatre with the William James Association in the Transformative Arts program in California prisons.