By Eloísa Pérez-Lozano
A Chance Encounter
“Ma’am, you can’t park here,”
a voice tells me through my passenger side window.
After the day I’ve had, I’m not in the mood for this,
but I’ll try to be nice.
I look up and see a familiar face.
But from where? I start to scan my memory
as I answer that my mom is the lady
walking up to the car.
“She’s right over there,” I answer as I catalogue
dark brown eyes against a tan face,
a black beanie covering his head from the chill.
There he is. I found him.
High-school, a lifetime away,
but I still remember him.
One of the few Mexican boys in choir.
A shy, quiet boy in Men’s Chorale
while I, the extroverted, talkative girl,
sang in the upper echelons of Symphonic Mixed.
There were few times during the year
when the choirs would join and I would see him,
but I always knew who he was.
A fellow Mexican like me.
“Oh okay, that’s fine,” he answers as he begins to walk away,
my mother heading to the door where he had stood.
“Is your name Manuel?!?” I call out to him.
He keeps walking so my mom calls out for me once more.
Her voice always carries when I need it to.
He turns then, without hesitating. “Eloísa?”
With the appropriate accent,
the way it’s meant to be said:
“Eh-lo-EE-sah,” not muddled,
with the sound of a “w” that doesn’t exist.
I ask how he’s doing; he’s studying to be a mechanic
and working here part-time.
I smile and say good for him
though it’s not good enough for me,
my privilege looking down on his lack of it,
closely followed by a dose of guilt for doing so.
My turn to share, but I don’t want to show off.
Though I’m proud of my degrees,
I gloss over them quickly, the guilt
burrowing, digging a hole in my stomach.
Though it’s not my fault I’ve gotten as far as I have,
it’s my fault for thinking it makes me better than him,
even for a brief, fleeting moment.
As happens in these kinds of run-ins with
old high school classmates,
I run out of words and he runs out of time.
We share one last friendly hug
before he goes back to work
and my mom and I head home.
Home a Table Away
I pick a table for five
Enough room for food and words
My pen prepares to strike
Two women talk at their table
Away from me they sit
I take the seat furthest away
Eavesdropping is not for me
Marionette strings that
Lift my head
Ellas son Latinas!
Too far for sentences
I only catch words
My ears straining for more
To know where they’re from
To know them
To be close to them
To be close to home
Silhouettes dark against outside
Caramel faces on display
I long to meet
On the edge of my seat
Can they feel me watching them?
My heart leaps forward
My legs paralyzed
Rooted right into the ground
My Mexican side reaches out
My American side holds her back
Give them their space, I say
Pero son como yo, I answer
They go on without us
Shooting the breeze
En inglés con un poco de español
Their hands tell their stories
Their voices narrate
Under a Mexican fan palm tree
Hoping, just hoping
To catch their eyes
To explain my stares
I am lonely
As they leave
My inner light has dimmed
I am left with
Only words to write
And spinach pesto on my plate.
Un Saludo in the Suburbs
I read in the car outside the house,
patiently waiting in silence
for my sister’s piano lesson to wrap up
You walk across the lawn with flyers in your hands,
wearing faded jeans and a light gray shirt
as you hang your message on the front door
I look up and our eyes meet,
open hands rising in sync together
as we smile and wave our saludo1
If my skin were darker,
you might see the paisana2 in me,
but to you, I’m just another gringa3
Living my life, your American dream
in a suburb you prune and mow
so your kids won’t have to
So they might live here one day,
and their children can learn
musical melodies like my sister
I wish you and your family lo mejor
because that’s all I can do
as you walk away
Eloísa Pérez-Lozano grew up bilingual and bicultural in Houston, Texas. She graduated from Iowa State University with her M.S. in journalism and mass communication and her B.S. in psychology. Eloísa was selected to be a Juried Poet during the 2014 Houston Poetry Fest and her poetry has been featured in The Bayou Review, Illya’s Honey, The Acentos Review, The Ofi Press, the 2014 Houston Poetry Fest Anthology, the Austin International Poetry Festival’s 2015 “Di-vêrsé-city” anthology, and the Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival’s 2015 “Boundless” anthology, among others.