Olga Abella

The waitress does not see me
watch her every day at the coffee shop.
I sit at the table that lets me look at her from the side
as she toasts bagels, whips coffee
into froth; sometimes her socks
are lime yellow against her
skin, smooth curve of a pear.

Her hair comes loose when she bends
too far into the sink, her face
flushing as steam draws sweat
in neat lines down her cheeks.

She brings me coffee, toasted
sourdough with butter and jam.
I allow myself one quick
look into her brown eyes,
wonder if she sees me blush,
if she can imagine a woman
dreaming of the freckles
on her neck, of my lips skimming
over that tiny gray scar above
the thumb of her right hand.

And I wonder if she would pale
at the words I write for her
every day as I watch
the slant of morning light
darken all in the room
but the small rise of her wrist.

Olga Abella


I watch my mother at the stove
sprinkling comino into the salted
water of the arroz con pollo.
I don't know the word
for the intimacy I feel
as she leans to taste
if the spices are just right.
I can't tell her
how much of me is occupied
by that small gesture,

how much of her
and me is lost
in translating
into a language
I cannot always find,
or how much of me will fade
when my last reservoir
will die,

her words even now
surfacing only in dreams
where I am four
speaking the sounds
of her tongue,
jugar, comer, dormir, trabajo.

Just these simple ones remain,
linger in faraway brain cells
I dust off for my trips to Miami,
my weekly calls home,
traces of the me
I did not become.


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