by Mario Duarte
Sidewalk sandwich sign: Two Tacos Chips
In a planter, vulva-like petals rock.
On the shelf behind the counter,
a prayer candle with a haloed skeleton
greets customers. A tattooed lady
barks my taco order, coughs fitfully,
I cup my mouth, grab a stool
at the window overlooking the street.
An old man rolls a green canister,
oxygen on wheels. Tubing in his nostrils.
Knit cap too small for chubby head.
Leaning on a planter, he lights a cigarette.
Have a nice day the bird flying
into my ear says. Air warm and dry.
Even clouds curl, their underbellies
white and smooth as sour cream.
My order ready. I bite down.
Childhood flavors odors arise.
Taco sauce tang on tongue,
onion breath, guacamole topping.
So far from home. My wife,
children beyond touch, America.
Departing, a cross bone skull
on a shelved can cries Adios wetback.
Mario Duarte lives in Iowa City, Iowa and is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His Mexican American family roots extend over 100 years into the Midwestern soil. His poems and short stories have appeared in aaduna, Carnival, Corazón Land Review, Slab, Huizache, the RavensPerch, the Steel Toe Review, and Storyscape, among others, with more work forthcoming in the Arachne Press.