Fall 1991 • Vol. XIII No. 4 Poetry |

An Early Mystery

                        1957 Six years old, I'm lingering over the candy counter.On the other side of the bodega my mother is interrogating the grocerabout the freshness of the produce: the breadfruit, the yuccas, the plantains. She does not trust him, I can tell. I recognize the voice she uses from listening late at night when my father's late arrivalmakes her sound that way: like a radiopicking up a faint signal, then losing it.           Sometimes,he comes in to kiss me, while I pretend to sleep; but there are nights when I hear the door clicking shut again. Though involved in my taskof deciding over chocolate-covered coconut bars that I can make last, or the bubble gumwrapped in tiny English-language comic stripsthat he can translate for me later, I smell the woman approaching: familiar scentof gardenias, cinnamon, alcohol—my daddy's shirt and his breathwhen he leans over my bed.        

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Judith Ortiz Cofer is an award-winning author known for her stories about coming-of-age experiences in the barrio and her writings about the cultural conflicts of immigrants. She is the author of many distinguished titles for young adults such as Call Me Maria, The Meaning of Conseulo, Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood, and The Line in the Sun. She lives in Georgia where she is the Regents’ and Franklin Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Georgia.

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The Lesson of the Tongue

By Judith Ortiz Cofer

                        1957 Six years old, I'm lingering over the candy counter.On the other side of the bodega my mother is interrogating the grocerabout the freshness of the produce: the breadfruit, the […]

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