Writing a Letter to Momma about my Visit to Progreso, Mexico

The obliterated place is equal parts destruction and creation.
                                                                         Cheryl Strayed

for my Mother, after the strokes

Here, there is an abundance of you: colorful wares clinking,
cooking oil sizzling into breezeless streets, and lively guitars
strummed and sung over. I see you lean

a rod of silver bracelets against the brick wall beside me
and grin for the pretty lady?, watch your fingers rove faux leather
keychains shaped like tiny shoes

while a sister eats warm candy beside you,
notice you peering out at me from behind dirty hands lifted toward
my face but not to ask me to feel sorry,

only helpful today. I give you a quarter, move on. Momma,
you have taught me, slowly, to know I am never a savior. Later,
I ask a woman for one taco for one dollar

at a makeshift kitchen—worn tent flung over metal poles,
a few plastic tables and chairs, the rollaway stove thickly coated
with grease—and it’s you again

in pink and blue striped skirt strolling to the chopping block
to fashion three piles of white, yellow,
and green, dashing shredded pollo with pepper and chili

in a skillet over a flickering hot flame before handing
the finished bundle to me on a plate, a lime halved beside. I squeeze
the juice unto the taco, children all around me

sell small packages of gum. You would have bought two or three,
or seven if you were here. I buy only one
from the little girl chirping at my shoulder to whom

you would have also mouthed thank you holding it to your chest
like a heartbeat. I hold it to my chest
like a heartbeat, hear you rise up from my throat to say thank you.

De nada she answers. Tomorrow,
Wintergreen will burst between my teeth, the sound of your enjoyment,
a memory—a flavor I will write about like something I can love.

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