Victoria Muñoz-Lepore

Kitchen Código


Victoria Muñoz-Lepore, aka Vicky Munyoz, was raised by a Nuyorican mother and Italian-American father in Medford, Massachusetts in the 1980s and 1990s. She has dedicated the majority of her adult years to mastering Spanish, and in 2011 graduated with an M.A. in Spanish from Middlebury College. Most of her time is spent teaching Spanish to high school students with learning disabilities in Brooklyn and she does so through storytelling, conversation, and theatre, with a thematic focus on Latin American histories. In her free time, she listens endlessly to tarot readings on YouTube, and, when inspired, draws her own cards.

for Abuela Grace

-With special thanks to Mamá Nélida, her Amigas, my Tías, Café Bustelo, and Gloria Estefan’s 1995 album Abriendo Puertas

beneath the clang and canto
of cucharas, boiling leche, ay dios míos and ave maría purísimas
sipping coffee with
mitad café mitad hot milk 

the rapidez
of a beautiful lyrical code
raised and cuddled me
pero only with other women 

the ritmo del lenguaje
comforted me somehow
even though i sometimes giggled
to myself porque i didn’t understand 

con el código, i heard
storytelling, secrets
and what it is to be mamá
y to be mujer 

to be trusted con los secretos
to sing con esa voz
y to be mujer
how I longed to crack that código 

buried deep within
my love for mi Mamá and
la Mamá de mi Mamá
who i only dreamt of and longed to know 

y mi Tía Carmen wondered
how i could belt Gloria’s latest disco
Abriendo Puertas con tanta confianza
y without kitchen code 

pero i had to 

mi Mamá played it for me in the car
on the way to school
because she wanted me to
speak the código too

maybe she waited too long
but bringing me to esas cocinas
donde las mujeres tomaban sus cafés
con cuentos y confianza 

revived my nostalgia, for an herencia
for an abuela
that I missed out on
but that birthed me 

pero sometimes
the code gets stuck                                                                                        in my mouth
like rusty keys jammed in the door they’re supposed to open
and the more you bang and twist and turn and try again
the only obvious thing is that you can’t open the door                          (to your bloodlines)
you’re locked out of of your family party                                    (because your mouth won’t open) 

and then the code gets stuck                                                                          in my ears
like cotton balls
i turn white and fuzzy
                                               I.              Can’t.      Hear.    You.
i’m    w    h     i      t      e    now and only talking with assimilation
stuck in some purgatory waiting room
where the receptionist can’t figure out how to account for your person
You’re not really, Spanish
except I obviously am have you seen this white skin?
high grade conquistador sangre imported all the way from the kingdom of castilla y aragón mixed with that of subservient
Brown women that needed saving 
have you seen my Mother? and her Tías?
like throwing generations of my Ancestors in the washing machine
washing off the blood, sweat, and come
until the Clorox poisons your memory:
                                               Assimilation.     Is.       Amnesia. 

pero sometimes
el código me sale
me sale algo lindo
como si tuviera la abuelita that I never met by my side 

me levanta a esas cocinas de mi niñez
to the fragancia
of the third round
of Bustelo on the burner 

en estos momentos ya no es código
porque we’re dancing a backyard salsa
without the lessons
not giving a fuck about the on the 2 or on the cuban or the whatever
porque the rhythm just hits the tongue, not mine, not yours, a collective tongue
like a first kiss that gives birth to new stars,
the bright shiny ones
even though you weren’t raised to look up
and didn’t even know you could stargaze your bloodlines 

y ahora Sí
estoy comunicándome
me siento como mi mamá
y la mamá de ella
y canto
y bailo
con my Abuelita
in the Sky

© The Acentos Review 2019