The Old Gringa

By Mel Goldberg


She enters the old hotel

followed by the teenage boy

hauling her suitcase filled

with clothes she will never wear

and books she will never read

up three flights of tiled stairs

to her room looking over

the terra cotta rooftops

alive with cactus in the winter warmth.

She inhales the scent

of last night’s wood fire and lavender

through the open window

surprised at the boy’s smile

sweet as a first kiss and towels

stiff from drying in the sun.

But when the whistle of the knife sharpener

pierces her ears and the iron bell of the church

shatters the air and the street vendors

fill great vats with frying pork for chicharónes

and the women call “Tamales, elotes, cacahuates,”

she knows she is like a street dog

longing for somewhere to belong

in this country that is not hers.


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