The Speech of Succession
Juanita Rey

The words are matriarchal
like eggs and manu
served in morning ritual
or rubbed into the skin
like sofrito on meat.

They’re ancient,
more ancient than the one who spoke them.
The intonation, dark eyes,
are two hundred years old at least.

They say,
forget the doubletalk of your father—
smoking, drinking, cussing, lying.
as he carves Dios, Patria,
into cigar-box cedar ~
he’ll only show you the ugliness,
the loneliness,
the thirst of his township.

Wisdom wears a dress.
And this is who you are, they say.
They mix recipes with warnings,
merengue and amargue.
Their final dying instruction is
keep it pure and pass it on.

And so I practice the rituals,
follow the patterns,
replicate the designs.
The child is inside
but it sidles up to me.
If it’s a boy,
I push it away
into its own doing.
If it’s a girl—
there will be no more ifs.


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