Peggy Robles-Alvarado

When Tía Teaches You How To Keep Your Man 

She says
Men only need two things: 
La comida y el culo

between drags of a Newport cigarette that balances 
casually between fingertips knowing everything
in a country foreign to your touch is temporary, always 
trying to eat but never fed to satisfaction  

An ephemeral stream that feared anything outside her 
5 block borrowed country, her section 8 sky greyed by
the barely-there rays of a New York City sun that she 
could never imagine warming  her childhood home in 
Santiago, that sphere of fire dulled among the rooftops
couldn’t bronze her skin even in summer, she laughed, 
bragged about her stove having more passion than Helios 
himself, cursed a coñaso at  the impotence of small Gods 
in this great city that watched newly arrived Cibaeños 
and Dominican- Yorks dance bachata to the same rhythm 
of a new world caught in their cold smiles    

She licked the sweat beading off her lover's brow who 
married her cousin for papers, pursed her lips the same way 
she had done when she arrived carrying an avocado seed 
in her mouth past customs; No one cared to hear her 
voice anyway

Mothering was as foreign as English but she continued to 
summon her womb, pushing forth the weight of five mouths 
her hands couldn’t quiet,  their bellies tied to her own empty,
bottle after bottle, first milk then water, lover after lover, first 
wind gust then ghost    

No one wanted her fracture, her undone seams of a body 
with too much to say and nothing but a fist to say it with 
Men were the only animals she couldn't slaughter in her two 
bedroom apartment where live poultry met its end on the  
kitchen counter every Christmas, so she held their throats 
during sex, bucking to the pulse of carotid arteries, her spine  
singing perico ripiao, the warmth of his jaw caught in her 
fingernails, reminded her of eating limoncillos en la marquesina 
of Abuela’s casita, the juice marking a slow sway down her chin 

always hungry, always looking to be fed  
cooked enough to feed all the married men in 
her building, knowing there are three ways into this 
country- water, wind and wound

Peggy Robles-Alvarado is Pushcart Prize nominee, CantoMundo Fellow, and an International Latino Book Award winner. As a tenured educator with an MFA in Performance Studies, she authored Conversations with My Skin (2011), Homage to the Warrior Women (2012) and curated The Abuela Stories Project (2016).  Find her @