If you substitute rice for potatoes
you would have my version of
growing up in America. When I
was thirteen and had high blood
pressure the doctor said “no gravy
on your potatoes,” but we didn’t eat
potatoes that often and to make
a difference in my diet it would
have had to be less adobo juice
on my rice or less salty soy sauce.
How, exactly, do you tell a doctor
when you’re thirteen that the example
he gave is a bad one, that it may apply
to him but not to me? Then there were
the things we used to do like cover
all the mirrors in the house with blankets
when there was a thunderstorm, practices
that carried over from the old world
that took decades to fade from our lives.
I don’t remember the first time we left
the mirrors uncovered during a storm
but I imagine my mother and father
felt tense, wondering if our house
in America would get struck by lightning,
that maybe the old superstitions
were still right after all these years,
and after all the things they left behind.
I wonder about the first time
my mother and father had a dinner
here without rice.
Did they still feel hungry afterwards,
did they feel slightly lost, standing
as tall as they could on uncertain feet,
in this strange, exotic land?
The photograph of me and my brother Pat was taken at the family house in Washington DC in 1972.