Pennies in Heaven

grandmama, tell me
tell me about the summer days
when you danced in the streets of El Salvador for pennies to buy candy

tell me about the rich man on the patio
who would pour pennies when you walked by
and how you would keep walking by
and by
and by

tell me about the songs and the steps
and how to move my hips like una españolita
tell me why they don’t grow chile in china

abuela dí­game
tell me about the day she asked you to move to America
and how you shrugged your shoulders and left the next day

tell me about the bus ride
about three straight days in the latin heat
with nothing but a floppy hat and some hope
tell me about the dust that the bus left trailing behind
tell me about your first day in the land of opportunity

grandmama, tell me
tell me about the cooking and cleaning
and why I should eat beans with every meal
tell me about your coffee
and how it got blacker as the work got harder
tell me about tequila and men
and why I should avoid them both
and why El Salvador is where the beautiful people live
and why you say eres hermosa niña, eres hermosa

abuelita dígame
tell me about the bus ride to heaven
under the warm latin heat like a river of salsa music
dancing through your hips to your soul
as you shake
and clap
and clank your glass
la cucaracha, la cucaracha –

grandmama, tell me
tell me if they grow chile in heaven
’cause aye aye aye they don’t in china
and tell me, was your first step off the bus beautiful?
beautiful like eighteen cousins learning to salsa
beautiful like the fiestas
the tamales
the besos y brazos
beautiful like your strong spanish soul

Abuelita, tell me
tell me you hear my prayers
and that you know I miss you
grandmama, tell me
por favor
Does God give you pennies in heaven?

 

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