Condolences felt undue
for the woman who said she loved you
and placed the word
‘spic-a-rican’ on your tongue
like a bite of angel food cake. It should
have tasted like her beans, fresh from the vine
but cooked so long canned were better. It should
have tasted like the grilled chicken, still raw at the bone one Summer-Sunday.
It should
have stung, been the soured powdered milk from a reclaimed mayo jar
but instead
it took the cracked-voice pain
of your Brazilian teacher’s “What?”
to learn; hot shame flooding your face as you stammered
“My grandma always says it
with a laugh…”

And she did, she did just that.
Feeling justified,
because to her mind, that was laughing ‘with’ her blood, not ‘at’ –
despite the red-painted & pained mystery of her absent father’s
opaque history; genes you’ll never not be

You loved her, in the end, some. You did. But always knowing
her own for you was muted
by her chosen deity’s perceived demands.
She remains the first
to inadvertently teach you
tongues can slice. You thank your gods
(the ones she’d cluck her own at & clutch her cross)
you’ve learned well to wield that blade.