Excerpts > Spring 2005
Orlando Ricardo Menes

(PDF Version)

Homage to Lupe

Never laughed—oyster gums—but give
Lupe aguardiente and she’d sing, dance
Andean huaynos, feet stomping like stones,
medals jingling, a saint for every malady.

Jorobada we called her, humped since
age seven when she sowed potato eyes
with digging sticks, bore sacks of tungstite
ore down mountains thirteen thousand

feet closer to Janaqpacha, Inca heaven.
Knees like church knockers from scouring
rust, dirt, and mildew, big-boned hands
that sprinkled potato starch as she ironed

Papá’s clothes, socks even, in a kitchen
facing St. Christopher’s Hill, gray and arid,
cement cross on its peak. Before I’d learned
it in Spanish, Lupe taught me Our Holy

Father in Quechua, the language stones
would speak if they had mouths, and after Mass
she’d take me to the convent where her favorite
saint, Martín de Porres, healed lepers,

fed Lima’s poor, turning water to milk,
mud to bread. We’d take home bits of black
cloth peddled as relics, in truth cheap
polyester. When I had nightmares I’d slip

into her old fold-up bed by the laundry
room, and Lupe would hold me till I fell
asleep again, her arms soft pillows,
her breath wet and heavy like ocean fog.

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