Sunday Poem

The Lesson of the Sugarcane

My mother opened her eyes wide
at the edge of the field
ready for cutting.
“Take a deep breath,”
she whispered,
“There is nothing as sweet:
Nada más dulce.”

Father left the flat he was changing
in the road-warping sun,
and, grabbing my arm, broke my sprint
toward the stalk:
“Cane can choke a little girl: snakes hide
where it grows over your head.”

And he led us back to the crippled car
where we sweated out our penitence,
for having craved more sweetness
then we were allowed,
more than we could handle.

by Judith Ortize Cofer
Touching the Fire — Fifteen Poets of
Today’s Latino Renaissance
Anchor Books, 1998