after Vallejo

I will die on Sunday afternoon in Saginaw
following a plate of my mother’s
enchiladas, fried chicken, and rice.
I will scrape up the congealed queso fresco
and sauce with a tortilla chip, with my
index finger among the garnish of iceberg
lettuce and chopped tomato.
Full, I pour a cup of coffee.
My father is there in his 1986 blue Buick Regal.
If there is a heaven this is it—
the car lot on State Street, my father’s smile
as we discuss the different shades of red: candy, burgundy,
cherry, and something that sparkles in-between.
I know I am dead as we drive to pick up tortillas,
the last stop every Sunday.
The day will slice itself into a lemon,
splay its fingers and clean the salt
from its nails as we roll our tortillas
on Grandma Rico’s porch made of red tulips.
We cannot eat in the car.
The sun setting is her gold tooth, beyond the
abandoned parking lot covered in dandelions.
If I could fold one flower in half and pluck
the creased eyes of a petal, I would know
what it means to pause before that space
where earth meets the lens of my eye upside down
when my father hands me the keys still warm from his pocket.
The salt and sour of the lemon my final taste of this planet.
My mother will gather her blue robe,
line it with roses, cut like stars.

MONICA RICO is a second generation Mexican-American who grew up in Saginaw, Michigan alongside General Motors and the legend of Theodore Roethke. She is an MFA candidate at the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program and works for the Bear River Writers’ Conference. Her poems have appeared in Barrelhouse’s HEARD: A Tribute to Anthony Bourdain, Glass: A Journal of Poetry (Poets Resist), SiDEKiCK Lit, and Split this Rock’s Poem of the Week. Follow her at www.slowdownandeat.com