Mama’s Favorite Flavor is Grape

Mama’s Favorite Flavor is Grape
Mama’s favorite beans when cooking are black beans.
Jade Seneca, the Chinese place a block up, and around the corner,
she orders chicken and broccoli. When someone’s sick, we order 
chicken and rice soup. Sometimes she makes Lipton 
with a packet of Sazon and sofrito, a cube or two.

Breakfast on the go is a cherry danish from the coffee stall in the city.
Hot chocolate all winter long. 
In New York, the winters are long.
If you stop by here when it’s winter, guess what you’re getting?
Quiere chocolaté? We’ve got plenty.

At the Japanese place downtown, by Chambers, I think?
She orders lemon chicken. Never sushi.
She doesn’t like mochi ice cream, so she lets me take it.
She doesn’t drink. Only a pina colada. It has to be virgin.

While we’re shopping on Myrtle, to cool off on a hot summer day,
there’s a pidaqua stand on the same block as Payless. 
Her pidaqua is either grape or cherry flavored.
When we’re buying candy for the theater or at home, her favorites 
are Mary Janes, Peanut Chews, and Snow Caps. Random days my dad will come back 
from the bodega with Sno Balls to surprise her.

She hates olives. She uses her fork to take them off her plate, and drop them onto my father’s.
At the dollar store, she grabs a pack of jelly rings, chocolate covered cherries,
and when it’s Easter, it’s Peeps, and chocolate covered marshmallow eggs.

Whenever I visit, and I’m homesick, she makes fricassee de pollo for lunch.
At the all you can eat Chinese buffet, my mother likes crab legs.
Ice cream from the Mr. Softie truck, always vanilla.

Grape juice, cranberry juice, apple juice — always juice in the fridge. And iced tea.
My mother bought the frozen kind, concentrate. 
Where she mixed it with water and stirred it in a pitcher.

She doesn’t like spicy. She buys Franciso Rinaldi
pasta sauce. Meat flavored. So she doesn’t get heart burn.
Always Tums in the house. Heart burn is something she always has.

She expects nothing less than Whitman’s chocolate for Valentines Day.
If we’re making a trip to the bodega for munchies, honey BBQ chips it is.
Come church events, she’s bringing potato salad.
Sunflower seeds on the train, we spit our shells in the plastic bag.
She’d always tell me, when your father and I were dating, 
he took me to Outback’s.

Burgers and steaks, always well done.
Applebees for birthdays.
McDonalds: Big Mac, Burger King: Whopper, Wendy’s: 
Either a taco salad, chicken sandwich or baked potato with cheese and broccoli.
I know all her favorites, and all her orders like the back of my hand,
even though I don’t remember what I ate for dinner yesterday.

I’d do anything to cook for her. She doesn’t have to cook for me.
I’d do anything to eat with her again. 
I’d do anything to treat her again. 
To meet her for lunch during my work break.

I’d do anything anything anything
	everything
to just share that last piece of cake 
we baked together from the box
always white cake mix
always vanilla frosting or cool whip on the top.
But I can’t, because it’s four years later,
and my mama’s still gone.

And I still use present tense because these things I know about her
still are.
Just like she still is.
In my memory, in my dreams,
even if not physically. 
Here
with me. 
She’s in my heart.

I hear Jade Seneca closed. It was our go to Chinese restaurant ever since I was a kid. The place was probably as old as, if not older, than me. I think the pandemic must’ve hit it hard. Was sad to hear it’s gone now.

The Roads Our Hearts Know

The Roads Our Hearts Know
We know all the avenues, and all the roads.
I can walk to Mrytle, Wyckoff, or Knickerbocker 
with my eyes closed.
And I do. 
More than you can imagine.

The way to the post office, the supermarket, the cuchifrito.
Street fairs, and flea markets.
All across Brooklyn and Queens. 
Times Square, 34th Street, and Broadway.
All the bus lines, all the trains.

My soul aches 

the way people’s broken bones ache
on rainy days. Except for me
it’s every day
when my eyes are open.

We roam Bellevue, Memorial Sloan Kettering,
the dollar stores, and the parks.
All the places I don’t visit anymore
in New York. We’re like ghosts 
replaying records new and old. Except one of us
is alive, 
and alone.

All the time,
I hang out with my mother.

Nowhere fancy. Nowhere grand.
Just a mother and her daughter buying groceries together
every night
since she passed.
I dream, and I long
for the roads our hearts know.
And for the life mama, and I
no longer have.