Monday, December 27, 2010

Making Verbal Tamales for Christmas

My family making tamales. Photo by Gabriel Bermejo.

A month or so back my friend Erika Ayon and I met to collaborate on poetry projects. During our meeting we created a form together. I've always wanted to create my own form, and this felt like the perfect time. We call it a tamal, as in the Mexican treat often eaten at Christmas. A tamal should be seven lines long, begin and end with the same line, rhyme on the 2nd, 4th, and 6th lines, and customarily mentions food.

On Wednesday December 23rd (aka Christmas Adam), I spent the day with my grandmother at her house in Boyle Heights. While sitting with her I heard a young girl singing Silent Night through the streets as part of a Posada*. This moment inspired the following tamal.


A young girl sings Noche de Paz
through a silent East L.A. night.
From my Grandmother’s stoop I watch
families weave winter streets by candlelight.
"Grandma, lo oyes?" She sets knitting down
to listen. We find our shelter tonight
as a young girl sings Noche de Paz.

My grandmother's front stoop. Photo by Erika Medrano.

Happy Holidays, to all! I hope you all have enjoyed moments of peace and beauty with those you love.

Please feel free to give the tamal a whirl. What kind will you make?

*Posadas are a Mexican tradition where a community reenacts the journey of Mary and Joseph through Bethlehem to find an inn. People walk through the streets going from house to house singing songs and asking to be allowed inside. They are denied many times until they get to the home/church/community center that welcomes them in. Once inside there is a party usually with piƱatas, champurado, pan dulce and other treats.

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