Hace calor
Abuelita says
We find her in the kitchen of the apartment
Wearing nothing but a bra and a half slip.
¡Mami! Tia gasps
I laugh, and laugh, and laugh
Six-years-old and sixty
Adjusting to this new place.
The white people keep telling us
It’s not the heat
It’s the humidity that’ll kill ya.
Abuelita doesn’t know the difference
Leaning over the stove to stir a pot of pinto beans.

The Weston apartments are home for Abuelita
Tia too.
They are downtown
Or uptown
Depending on who you ask.
I ask Tia
Why does the elevator smell like pee?
Every time we go up and down.
Sometimes she doesn’t answer
Once she points at a puddle in the back corner
And I’ve never felt more trapped
As we waited for the door to open again.

We left Nueva York for this place
Grand Rapids, Michigan
More opportunities, Tia explains.
We ignore the boarded-up buildings
And meander toward what she calls la plaza.
The summer flows from the concrete
The last summer before I start first grade, 1991.

Did you go to school Tia?
In Puerto Rico?
She takes my hand and tells me about walking through
Butterfly fields on her way home from class
Her and her friends climbing mango trees.

It’s time to go home for dinner
This new home.
The elevator climbs up again, Abuelita greets us
Arroz and habichuelas.
There a twinkle in her green eyes
She tells me to bless the food
English is okay, she says. 
But I pray in Spanish. And God listens.

-	R.R. Tavárez 

*Photo by Uwe Conrad