Pennies in Heaven

grandmama, tell me.

tell me about the hot summer days

When your little feet

danced on the Salvadoran street

hoping your hat

would fill with pennies

like the desert dreams of rain

and tell me

tell me about the rich man on the patio

who would give you pennies when you passed by

and how you would keep passing by

and by

And by

and tell me what these songs mean

and how to move my hips to dance the salsa

tell me why they don’t grow chile in china


abuela dígame

tell me about the day she asked you to move to america

and how you said yes

and left the next day

tell me about the bus ride

about three straight days in the latin heat

with nothing but a floppy hat and some hope

tell me about the El Salvador dust

that the bus left trailing behind


grandmama tell me

tell me about the cooking and cleaning

and why i should eat beans with every meal

tell me about your coffee

and how it got blacker and blacker as the work got harder

tell me about tequila and men

and why i should avoid them both

and why El Salvador is where the beautiful people live

and why you say eres hermosa niña, eres hermosa


abuelita dime

tell me about the bus ride to heaven

under the warm latin heat like a river of salsa music

dancing through your soul to your hips

as you shake

and clap

and clank your glass

to la cucaracha, la cucaracha


grandmama tell me

tell me if they grow chile in heaven

cause aye aye aye they don’t in china

and tell me,

was your first step off the bus beautiful?

beautiful like eighteen cousins learning to salsa

beautiful like the fiestas

the tamales

the besos

y brazos  

beautiful like your strong salvadoran soul


Abuela tell me

por favor

Does God give you pennies in heaven?


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