Peggy Robles-Alvarado on “In Leticia’s Kitchen Drawer”
In Leticia's Kitchen Drawer
A Craftsman curved claw hammer to crack coco and hang
portraits, a tape measure to remind her waist she eats
mangú too often, fifteen scattered rusty pennies to
help Tito with math homework or sink into a nine day
candle to cut Doña Elsa's evil eye on any given day,
five slightly bent nails pulled from the living room wall
that held portraits proving they danced merengue
once, a red silk ribbon to tie his picture to her sweaty
discount store underwear to keep him from falling back
into Tanya's bed, wrinkled menus from the Goodie- Goodie
Thai restaurant on Cruger she treats herself to when
her sister mocks her for never getting a passport or
mispronouncing Pinot Noir, or not having any Sears
family portraits, a ball of white yarn to wrap around
pasteles every Christmas or to secure lucky leaves above
the doorway when he drinks both their paychecks, film from
an outdated Kodak she won't develop to avoid seeing the
exact day she lost her looks on his knuckles, ginger candy
from the Korean market she reluctantly pushes in her
mouth every time he dares her to leave, every time her
tongue lashes a familiar whip to her body, and when
her voice mimics her sister's burn, Diamond long stick
matches for lighting the broken pilot light and the
candles that keep her bowing to him.
All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
On "In Leticia's Kitchen Drawer"
This poem was developed from a prompt given by Cheryl Boyce Taylor during a workshop I attended at Cave Canem. At the time I was gathering and writing poems for an anthology I was developing titled The Abuela Stories Project honoring distinct grandmothers and the lessons they offer new generations.
A junk drawer holds items people refuse to discard; everything from ketchup packets, safety pins to old batteries and loose change. These objects are symbolic of the lives people live and the relationships they belong to. They are artifacts tied to both the quotidian and the idiosyncratic life of the owner. The drawer is a subconscious storage unit; a holding port of the owner where the important and the unimportant share space, experience and storytelling.
When thinking of Leticia, a fictional character heavily inspired by many cross- generational women in my family, I wanted her drawer to embody who she was, who she desired to be and the woman she could not stop being. Her drawer was set in her kitchen, the place where she spent most of her time but also a place of transformation where she could nurture or destroy, bless or curse, pray or prey for her husband. Each item in the drawer serves a purpose physically and spiritually; each one with a story of Leticia's triumph or unraveling. Leticia reminds us of the stories we have collected or hidden in our own junk drawers.
Peggy Robles-Alvarado contributed this piece in conjunction with LA BENDICIÓN: A ONE-DAY CELEBRATION OF LATINX-CARIBBEAN POETRY IN THE UNITED STATES at New York University on February 8th, 2018.