Mom vs. the Cholas – Michigan Quarterly Review
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Mom vs. the Cholas

When I imagine it, I first picture
the twisted fence, her body warping wire,
lava nails pushing her face so deep into metal
a cheek pressed through a pentagon.

And I assume she was wearing
one of her two outfits. But before I get into
how the third didn’t come till five years later
in a town 1000 miles away

I want to focus on the fence. And its crescent bend
as six fists beat my mother into her place
in the Española Prep School circle of life,
their hoops gleaming like lowriders.

Though on that day something miraculous
after a seismic bounce against the chain links,
my mom Margie Marquez ducked
and rolled, stood and clouded 3 cholas

in roadrunner dust. She ran faster than the time
Roque haloed a lasso toward her throat,
faster than the rocks Pedro pegged with the end
of a piñon root. She had enough fists in her life

to know when you’re chased down Pueblo Street
by 3 chubby cholas, when you got 3 angry motherfuckers
clawing at the wisps of your hair yapping
“Next time you kiss Tony Martinez,” you take the back route

and deal with the horse manure. You climb the dirty hill,
tumble down desert weeds and flatten yourself
against the family feed store. You just run
till you hit something more dangerous.

When my mom learned Flamenco she never told us,
just arrived one day in spotlight on a stage
and we watched, we, who have never been chased
by cholas, never seen a screaming Puerto Rican

run her boyfriend over with a pickup at a party,
never learned how to honk a horn inside a car
to rouse rescue from a knife. No, I’ve never
even had to mop up my own blood.

Flamenco looks like something you’d do on a playground
and get in trouble, her heels hot with embroidered flames.
The “Duende” of a dance is when routine is abandoned
when she met my father for the first time,

my mom Margie Marquez saw him
in a pressed sweater from The Gap, ducked
and rolled into Mary Larson’s room across the hall,
wiggled out of a cattle-stained collar

and pulled on a flower frock, with pearls,
lifting her arms in the light, she secured them
behind her neck, fingers curved above her hair.
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