Monday, August 15, 2005

Maria Tortilla

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Every day like clockwork, Jesus comes by.
Cousins and aunts drop their tortillas. They make the sign of the cross,
rush to her bedside, stir death and flour into the air.
Her son and husband stand nearby clutching prayer cards,
While the women surround the bed, clucking and patting.
She reaches out to her Savior.
“Dios mio! Dos mio!” The rosaries click.
“Go on, take his hand, hermana. It’s all right.”
Jesus walks away empty-handed every day.

The women become disgruntled with Jesus.
There is muttering, dissatisfaction.
He is beloved but he is just a son, like their sons.
It is the Virgin Mother that they trust.
To her they gossip, make their petitions, one mother to another.
But the Virgin cannot persuade her son to take the woman.
And so, like all mothers of obstinate sons, the Holy Mother suffers too.
She joins the aunts and cousins at the counter, elbow to elbow,
patting the tortillas into pleasing pale circles that call to mind
the moon, a pregnant belly. The fullness of life.

The women become bitter.
“Here comes the drive-by Jesus! Oh, there he goes…”
They jostle La Virgen a little more at the counter,
returning to the work of the living,
rolling and folding the tortillas, recipe the same as always
but fortified with prayers, enriched with blessings.
“Take her, Jesus, she has suffered enough. Talk to him, La Virgen!”
The moon fills her cup and drains away two times.
Tortillas fill the house, the freezer, the side tables.

Jesus comes by the next evening.
He is tired of the grumbling, as tired as the woman is of living.
He has had his fill of tortillas.
In the quiet of the empty room, he takes her hand. They walk away.
The table is full: aunts, cousins, son, husband.
The eldest aunt passes a platter of tortillas;
the Virgin nudges her. The tortillas fall to the ground
and the plate shatters.
They run to her room. She is gone.
Her son and husband sob, “Thank you, Jesus, thank you.”
The aunts and cousins make the sign of the cross and murmur, “Maria, Maria.”

by Karen Roberts


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