Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “In Española, NM” by Pamela Washington. Ms. Washington lives in Oklahoma.
In Española, NM
At Delicia’s Restaurant,
The golden tamales are always warm
Served by orange aproned brown women with
Chili ristra red lips and
Black hair you can’t get out of a bottle,
Who smile for the tip.
Wooden tables with
Brightly colored plastic fiesta table cloths
Sit beside teal and lavender window frames
Jammed in adobe walls.
Delicia herself presides, green chili sauce
Ladle in one hand, the other scooping
Large portions of earth-toned beans
On to white plates for white people who
Pay for the local color.
Poet's Notes: This poem was inspired during my first trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I was struck by the color everywhere—even the doors of houses were bright turquoise, red, or yellow. One afternoon, our group stopped in a small diner in Española that was brightly colored and advertised “Real New Mexican Cuisine.” However, it was clearly set-up for the tourists.
As I sat waiting for the food, I imagined the owner sitting in the back, smiling at all of us out front who thought we were getting an “authentic” experience. As I wrote this poem, I wanted to capture all the colors in the restaurant while describing the scene from both viewpoints—patron and owner. I wanted to play with the idea of “local color” and expose our assumptions about how we can experience a different culture.
Editor’s Note: The compelling imagery makes me hungry for ethnic food. The last stanza is particularly strong--clever use of the word "color."