“Flies don’t enter a closed mouth”
—a saying, translated by Gloria Anzaldúa
My wife Mary and I are making tortillas.
She taught herself and wants to teach me.
I work dough with the rolling pin,
searching for the right balance
of force and repetition.
The two Spanish words Mary heard
from her mother: dejáme and mi’jita.
Otherwise she never spoke to her
in Spanish. She asks me to translate
literally—all that I am capable of.
When I am too cautious, dough dries
swollen at the edges, cracking
like chapped lips.
From dejar, to leave or abandon,
to go from, as in ¡Dejáme en paz!
When I press too hard,
dough sticks to the rolling pin,
forming oblong shells that split
from the circumference
towards the center.
What her mother said
when she was too angry
to speak English.
From mi and hija. My little
I will have to press hundreds
of tortillas to master the rhythm
that yields the perfect
and resilient thinness.
Mary sprinkles my efforts
with water, and with only her hands
flattens and stretches the dough,
kneading together torn seams.
What she said to call her close—
to press her into her body.
We eat tortillas hot from the skillet.
The silence of our chewing
scatters the texture
of what her mother said.
Linwood Rumney’s poems, nonfiction essays, and translations have recently appeared in or are forthcoming from North American Review, Ploughshares, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Puerto del Sol, Southern Review, Kenyon Review, Adirondack Review, and elsewhere. Currently an editorial assistant for Black Lawrence Press, he lives in Cincinnati, where he is pursuing a PhD as a Taft Fellow.