The Red Sweater
slides down into my body, soft
lambs wool, what everybody
in school is wearing, and for me
to have it my mother worked twenty
hours at the fast-food joint.
The sweater fits like a lover,
sleeves snug, thin on the waist.
As I run my fingers through the knit,
I see my mother over the hot oil in the fryers
dipping a strainer full of stringed potatoes.
In a twenty hour period my mother waits
on hundreds of customers: she pushes
each order under ninety seconds, slaps
the refried beans she mashed during prep time,
the lull before rush hours, onto steamed tortillas,
the room's pressing heat melting her make-up.
Every clean strand of weave becomes a question.
How many burritos can one make in a continuous day?
How many pounds of onions, lettuce and tomatoes
pass through the slicer? How do her wrists
sustain the scraping, lifting and flipping
of meat patties?....... And twenty
hours are merely links
in the chain of days startlingly similar,
that begin in the blue morning with my mother
putting on her polyester uniform, which,
even when it's newly-washed, smells
of mashed beans and cooked ground beef.
Used by permission.
Joseph O. Legaspi is the author of Imago (CavanKerry Press), winner of a Global Filipino Literary Award. He lives in Queens, NY and works at Columbia University. A graduate of New York University’s Creative Writing Program, his poems appeared and/or are forthcoming in American Life in Poetry, From the Fishouse, World Literature Today, PEN International, Smartish Pace, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Gay & Lesbian Review, and the anthologies Language for a New Century (W.W. Norton) and Tilting the Continent (New Rivers Press). A recipient of a poetry fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts, he co-founded Kundiman (www.kundiman.org), a non-profit organization serving Asian American poets.
Legaspi was part of the group reading 7 & 7: 7 Poets Celebrate Kundiman's 7th Year at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2010.
Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!
Split This Rock