Cascarones        

            Chavez Ravine, 1949, Don Normark

Courtesy: Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

Courtesy: Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

I
 

The boy wears a reindeer sweater,
but it’s not Christmas.
That’s not snow spilling,
but white flakes falling
over the tops of heads
in celebration of Easter.
Cáscaras are carefully
tapped and emptied
by mothers cooking breakfast,
dried and collected
on windowsills over months,
and filled with the promise of smiles
for boys wearing moth-eaten
reindeer sweaters in spring.
Beneath the fresh crack of a cascarón,
all worry breaks to pieces.
 

II
 

My great-grandparents
with white hair and chiseled smiles
walk arm in arm before a church.
Andrés wears a thick cardigan,
fat charcoal buttons closed at the neck
and opened above the waist.
Placida wears a black rebozo
over the crown of her head
and her own dark cardigan over a long skirt.
I’m told this is their 50th anniversary.
This is a black and white photo
from Teocaltiche, Mexico.
A black and white photo that lies in a tall stack
of photos waiting to be sorted
by my grandmother’s children gathered
in her Boyle Heights home.
Andrés and Placida are long gone.
My grandmother is gone now too.
I want to ask my aunt for this photo
of an old couple frozen before a church
getting rained on by white bits like snow,
but I don’t because we are fragile
and in danger of going to pieces. 
 

III
 

“Did you know it’s a Mexican thing?”
“Huh?”
“Confetti eggs. Did you know?”
my cousin asked as she nibbled on one
of my mother’s falltime pumpkin and oatmeal cookies
in our kitchen after school.
“I always thought all kids had confetti eggs,
but they don’t.”
We were both wearing cardigan sweaters
over our Catholic school uniforms.
She, tall and slender, lifted a long foot
to her legginged knee like a ballerina.
The staples I punched
into my skirt had popped out,
and the uneven hem fell to a chubby knee.
“Really?” I said thinking of Easter picnics 
and tiny bits of colored paper caught in my curly hair,
tiny bits I could only get out with water and shampoo.
She didn’t know about that
with wavy chocolate hair that swayed
about her shoulders.
“You grow up thinking all kids
have what you have,” she said,
and I thought about all her beauty
and how any time we played Truth or Dare,
all the boys picked dare in the hopes of kissing her,
but never about her absent dad,
or that she spent afternoons at our house
so that her mom wouldn’t worry while she worked.
All this fell from my 13 year-old mind like confetti,
and only now do I begin to gather the pieces.