El Granjenal, Michoacán, December Traditions
I hear a little girl talk to me
on nights like this one, intimidating
and forgotten. When limp
olive trees cast their shadows
on my shadow, machete in hand,
I stop to watch. Is it a sin to closely
watch your cousin strip down to his underwear?
Uno de los Maldonado’s baby cries
and my abuelita calls for her yerba de Manzanilla.
Las posadas are held tonight on our street,
my sister chosen to be la virgen Maria,
my cousin as Jose— horses, a donkey,
in hay, a floating star lit
hung with the same wire
they used to hang my birthday piñatas with–
I am no one tonight though.
The warm smell of canela boiling in large pots,
pan dulce arranged neatly in plastic
containers. This feels foreign to me,
like my mother and my father.
But I pretend to enjoy it and stand behind the old ladies
in their black rebosos. We sing in Spanish,
songs that relate to the Nativity scene
that once was before my time. The space between
my temples fixes on my cousins eyes
and we both smile under our closed lips.
A choreographed night and after duties disappear,
so do we, sneaking away, taking an extra Aginaldo,
going to our private hideout– the muddy stalls
of an abandoned home where a family
was murdered. In the dark we forget
about everything and caress each others hair,
and kiss each others lips, “for practice,”
pretending to be doing it to a girl.
But for me,
it was heaven.
Luis Lopez-Maldonado was born and raised in Santa Ana, California. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California Riverside in Creative Writing, and another in Dance. His work has been seen in The American Poetry Review, Spillway, The Packinghouse Review and Cloudbank. Poets that have influenced Lopez-Maldonado’s work include Gary Soto, Federico Garcia Lorca, Cesar Vallejo, Rigoberto Gonzalez and Alba Cruz-Hacker. He is single and living in Orange County.