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Larissa Parra

Tamale Day

When buying corn husks, it’s important

to know that they come by the pound—

I’ve heard it’s best to buy too much.

After all, my father’s hands rub rough.

I heard they once forged steel. Now they snag and rip

husks—hairy and bloated in the sink—

until he takes me to buy more. If I’m lucky,

I can hear his Spanish, hurried and hushed

to the mercado boy, as I do only once a year.

On the drive back, I wonder why it took eighteen years

to learn that his name is not Vince, but Vicente.

Still, my mother needs me home, where my sisters

spread masa and pinch red meat, so her white hands

can reach over and pinch me—her french-tipped nails

sliding the olives off my thumbs.

She calls tamale-making a science

and maybe it is

when we line them in Pyrex, filling our freezers

for Christmas, but dad always sneaks a few

for us. As we drop them in the boiling water,

he kisses me with the lips that lost their accent

and swore he would never teach me Spanish.

Every Christmas, I stood itchy and waiting

in my good tights and red dress

for dinner with my cousins

who claim they only see us at weddings or funerals,

but that’s not true.

Only weddings and funerals and Tamale Day.

My mother, who never eats this kind of food,

serves them with green beans and cranberry sauce,

pours us Martinelli in tinny champagne flutes.

When the tamales are unwrapped, corn husks piled on a plate,

I know we’ll wrap up Tamale Day and store it for the year.

About the Author

Larissa Parra is a sophomore English student at IVC and she looks forward to transferring into a Comparative Literature program to pursue a PhD. She’s new to writing, but not to reading and spends many Saturdays at her local used bookstore reading memoirs and short story collections.

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