Amanda Galvan Huynh


Amanda Galvan Huynh is a recipient of a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, a 2017 Sewanee Conference Tennessee Williams Scholarship, a 2016 AWP Intro Journal Project Award, and was a finalist for the 2015 Gloria Anzaldúa Poetry Prize. Her work can be found in the following journals: RHINO Poetry, Muzzle Magazine, Tahoma Literary Review, Silk Road Review, The Boiler Journal, and others. 

First time I interrupted Mamá talking

The first time I interrupted Mamá
she was talking with her sisters
in the kitchen. Arroz simmered 

in its tomato juice. The blood smeared
between my legs was brighter. I thought
I was dying at thirteen. I thought I would die 

if Mamá saw the stains beginning to darken
my shorts. My fear cut the laughter abrupt
like hands caught in the stove’s flame. 

Mamá uncrossed her arms and followed
me back to the bathroom. With one arm
she reached under the sink. In the cracked 

mirror my questions never left my mouth:
Am I sick? Will I bleed forever? What do
I do with all this blood? Am I dying? 

Mamá handed me a square wrapped in pink
but didn’t explain. Did your brothers touch you?
I stared at her face, calm but impatient. I tried

to figure out what she meant by touch.
Did your brothers touch you there?
I shook my head. She nodded, closed

the cabinet. Put that in your chones.
She shut the door behind her, the kitchen’s
noise rose, and I never interrupted her again.

Where is my Mexican mother? 

There’s a shell of her haunting
        our house. She has exchanged
                her comadres for gringas. Shoos
the mutts away and welcomes
        the bred dogs to shit in her yard.

                She uncurls her hair
and turns off the Tejano
        music inside her. She’s forgotten
                how to cumbia, how to make
tortillas, simmer arroz y frijoles. 

        Her ears have gone deaf to Spanish.
                She hires Mexicans to mow her lawn,
for Mexicans to clean her house,
        and holds Pampered Chef parties
                for the neighbors. She stocks

her cabinets with white sugar,
        dyes her hair blonde, and comes for me
                with a flat iron to straighten
the Mexicana in me because a white woman
        cannot have a Mexican for a daughter.


Juego de Lotería 

Between the Game of Life and Monopoly
our Lotería box holds its flattened self 

the best way a small game can. I free it
from the weight of Life like I always do 

when I visit home. The lid’s corners torn
open, and flaps bound by a single rubber band. 

A few raw pinto beans wake up to sing a roll
from within. I lift the yellow top to hold 

my childhood. The deck of cards curved
from shuffles, las tablas limp with drink stains, 

and imperfect beans. We only used imperfect
ones as placeholders. Before cooking frijoles 

my mother would sift through the large bag
to search for and remove the ones broken 

in half, oddly shaped or discolored. Only the good
ones should be eaten. Bad beans were reborn, 

given to me to take to the dining table to play.
I’d squeeze these misfit bodies together to create 

a corazón overflowing with beans. I’d outline
el sol’s smile, scale la sirena’s tail, transform 

el arbol into a bean bearing tree, grow a bean
nopal, and wait for
someone to come and sit 

down. For tíos to set their cervezas on the table,
for primos to fight over tablas, for my mother 

to shuffle the cards to call out, for my father
to banter over the dollar and quarter bids, 

and for my god-mother to laugh out: Ay, compadre.
We need more than ones if we want to get rich 

in here. I want my mansion güey. But sometimes
no one showed. When we moved to Houston 

we never played. No family to invite over. No
one to hand out tablas, to call out the cards, 

to accuse someone of cheating. No fingers
to place beans in the squares. No one to steal 

tortillas or stuff theirs with frijoles. No one
to laugh with, to sing drunk or cry drunk. 

In Houston, we no longer needed to gamble.


© The Acentos Review 2018