* My mother worked nights


After dinner, my father would take us

down the block, to Mama’s Bakery.

The night still warm, we had no need of jackets,

only sandals with hastily done up leather straps,

excited for the rare opportunity to be doing something fun with him.

The ritual was familiar to us:

For my father, a bottle of beer and a bowl of tremoços,

slippery with oil and covered in flakes of red pepper.

My sister and I would reverently unwrap Kinder Surprise,

and sip green cans of Sumól with a straw.

Portuguese music played to itself in the background,

faint sounds of men armed with accordions,

singing of fish for dinner, old socks, and old ladies thrown upside-down.

Sometimes there’s another person there, who sits at his own table,

with his own tremoços and beer (but no little girls), and my father’s voice fills the space.

After the soda was done, and the little toys built,

we would play with the leftover bean skins,

and the bottle caps from the beer,

impressed when my father would bend one in his hand.

We would try, and fail, to pry it open,

and he would look at us, and tell us again,

“Remember, don’t tell your mother we came here."

                The sandals with the leather straps have long been outgrown,

                the bakery has newspapers covering all the windows,

                and the collection of little toys has been stored away.

                I understand things now that I didn't then.

               The child in my mind still doesn't, though

               and the memories of those idyllic summer nights

               keep their sacredness.

Author's Notes/Comments: 

Published in "the view from here" literary magazine, Issue 23.

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