This time of year
when stringed lights twinkle
we remember home—
           like la terraza
                     where comete lo todo was law
                     and when summers were Nintendo seminars;
                               merienda at three
                     and that awful punishment,
                     which we all endured
                     of sitting in the living room watching telenovelas.

A kiss on the cheek hello, and a kiss for adios,
and those old people in our lives:
the sentinels of our divertimento
          so clumsy
                with ingles;
                so powerful in Spanish.

                                I can sit here,
                                three-thousand miles from home,
                                remembering the day they assigned me
                                my white drinking mug,
                not like a prisoner in a Cuban jail,
                but like a rite of passage in a sacred tribe;
                                a foundation laid by our mayores mayores,
                                a home built where there was previously none—
                                and tell me this;

                how can we even begin
                to carry on this tradition?

Raul Palma’s work has appeared in Saw Palm and 34th Parallel. He was the winner of the 2012 Soul-Making Keats, Mary Mackey Short Story contest and a three-time finalist in Glimmer Train contests. He lives in Nebraska.