La Virgen

Maria Teresa Tristan


My grandmother’s paper-thin hands push me
through the smallest cavity of an expertly woven
crowd; the afternoon’s sweat coats our skin
slowly, like newly applied buttermilk lotion.

I brush the damp arm of a man holding a brisk
can of beer as he gazes into the eyes of the Virgin,
who has appeared in all her majesty, on a filthy
window of a neighbor’s house. The grey-brick

altar flickers with a welcoming glow of candles
at her feet, fields of blushing carnations cover
the thirsty earth with their silken bodies, murmurs
of prayers and gossip buzz at my ears like flies.

My Grandmother’s finger points to the incarnation
of the holiest of mothers, There! See her?
Did she know then I had no faith? My eyes strain
to witness the smudge transform itself

but all I could make out were the days of grime,
the lard that splatters from an endless sizzling pan,
the painted blurs of fingerprints and noses eager
to see the world outside. All I see is the weary

woman behind the window, a baby perched
at the curve of her hip, while three sets of plump
fingers pull at her skirt as she stands by her stove
stirring a pot of beans with a wooden spoon.




The Woman Walking the Dirty Length

Maria Teresa Tristan


of West Commerce dragging white
plastic bags, pregnant with the only food

her WIC card could buy, doesn’t care
that the river running through the heart

of downtown spends its winter nights
warmed by the reflection of colorful lights.

There are a handful of babies in her one
room home waiting with their mouths open

like birds, for her to surrender her spirit
and nourish their bodies just enough

to get through the night. But it will never
be enough, because enough is a dream,

like the American Dream, a crystal vase
on the edge of a shelf too high to reach.

So I burn a little more gas and drive across
town because the smell of menudo

is my mother’s house and the taste
of chicken at Pollo Loco is the closest thing

to my dad grilling in the backyard, sweat
pouring down his face, smoke filling his skin.



Maria Teresa Tristan is a writer of poetry who graduated from the University of the Incarnate Word in 2014 with a Bachelor's in English. She has attended several poetry workshops around the United States and will pursue an MFA in Poetry in the future. Her work has appeared in the Texas Observer and the San Antonio Express News. Maria Teresa currently lives in San Antonio, Texas and works for American Sunrise, a children's nonprofit.

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