It was Sunday and my mother was washing dishes
after dinner, scraping con-con from the bottom
of the rice pot, the congeal and crisp of grains left
over. She hummed a song from church that day:
Si tú tienes fe como un granito de mostaza.
She hit the falsetto and twirled
her voice around the notes, the spill
of the faucet drowned the rest—
Eso lo dice el Señor.
Maybe she was always drowning, hands
elbow deep in the hem of my pant leg,
the cake batter in the silver Kitchen Aide mixer.
Maybe a Sunday wasn’t the day to ask,
her hands praising the plates, and my dirty question:
Did you enjoy making me?
I don’t know why I had to know then, why in that moment
all I could think about was my father’s bristled chest on her naked
body and hoping he hadn’t hurt her, his weight on her frame,
muscled arms around supple skin, that he kissed
her mouth like he’d kiss the rim of a beer glass, drinking her
in slowly and sighing after. I hoped that his hands
weren’t too tight on her wrists, and if they were, that she liked it,
the familiar grip unfamiliar.
Maybe my father spoke her name into the darkness, conjuring
her lust. I imagine she called him back into her, spell-dazed
with heat and the need to be conjured again.
And I thought about my father’s lips, pursed like mine, the wet
of his cheek the last time I had dinner at his apartment, the soup
still simmering in the boil of July,
how he topped the bowl with hot sauce and lime. I licked the spoon
and he ladled more, feeding me seconds, twenty-six years too late.
And my mother, still cleaning up
his mess. Still saying,
Yes, bella, I enjoyed it.