We dress my daughter in amarillo, not butter
or sunlight or mirasol, maybe an Easter yellow,
maybe a Dia de los muertos yellow, a baby chick
yellow, it doesn’t matter. She flickers
around the house all bare-foot. She takes you
by the hand and makes you play
La Suavecita on repeat, her hair in brown
bouncy pig-tails. All day. She watches
your mouth, the way you say tambores,
the way you say cumbia. She won’t stop smiling.
When she laughs I hear my mother. I am
back in her house, all bare-foot, dancing
to the same song.
My mother dresses in a teal bata, not Miami
or peacock or Tiffany Blue, maybe an Easter teal,
maybe a Dia de los muertos teal, a robin egg
teal, it doesn’t matter. She flitters
around the house. She takes me
by the hand and teaches me how to spring
my arms, how to move my hips,
how to follow the beat already in my legs.
She tells me,
ay mijo, one day, las muchachas
will want to spend the night with you
on the dance floor. Find those feather feet.
Carry a smile and laugh, mijo laugh.
I ask to play the song again and run
to rewind the cassette tape. All day.
My mother is all baila, baila,
all brown curls of bobbing hair
abriendo sus brazos the moment
I learn how to spin her in
our shot-gun house. She won’t stop smiling.
My mother loves the color yellow.
There is a sing, a flow around inside.
My daughter ooooos the color teal.
When they lay eyes on each other, they watch
each others’ mouths, see just who smiles first.
I’m just here, waiting to see who wants to dance
—si no la invito, me invita ella.
Copyright © 2021 by Lupe Mendez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 31, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.