Tamales with Christmas Tree
Hot Tamales
by Joan Jobe Smith

Marion, mi comadre, has spent three whole days
preparing the ingredients for her Christmas tamales
20 pounds of beef she simmered on the stove until
the meat fell from the bones, then shredded by hand
into the chile sauce Marion made from New Mexico
deep red chiles and then made the masa with garlic
and lard Marion kneaded at least an hour until a ball of
the yellow-white corn mush floated in a cup of water
the sign at last the masa will not be flat and stick to
the corn husks when cooled but be tender and plump
the corn husk wrappings coming off smooth as silk
when you unwrap the perfect miraculous hot tamale
and this Christmas Marion asks me to be part of this
Mexican tradition, join her woman assembly line with
Marion and her daughters and nieces, each of us with
aprons and a pile of washed and dried golden corn husks
upon which we spoon and spread (on the smooth side)
the amber masa and then dollop chili meat in the middle
and then roll and wrap and tie the tamale with a ribbon
of torn corn husk one by one, one by one, one by one
while we women talk of men, babies, the glory of God,
Jesus the reason for the season, away in the manger on a
silent night and jolly old St. Nick, sleigh bells, halls of holly,
fa la la and white Christmas, blue Christmas, green bright
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree and angels and Rudolph
and red noses and hey, baby, merry Christmas. Christmas,
we see, was when love was born, a halting time of hate as
we each speak and sing until one by one we’ve made 100s
of tamales for Marion to carry in the biggest pot I’ve ever
seen to steam for hours on the stove as the tamales slowly
slowly cook and cook while we women wait there in this
glorious, delicious state in this steamy kitchen universe
aromatic with corn, garlic, red chiles, feliz navidad and
hot tamales.

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Joan Jobe Smith
, founding editor of Pearl and Bukowski Review, worked for seven years as a go-go dancer before receiving her BA from CSULB and MFA from University of California, Irvine. A Pushcart Honoree, her award-winning work has appeared internationally in more than five hundred publications, including Outlaw Bible, Ambit, Beat Scene, Wormwood Review, andNerve Cowboy—and she has published twenty collections, including Jehovah Jukebox (Event Horizon Press, US) and The Pow Wow Cafe (The Poetry Business, UK), a finalist for the UK 1999 Forward Prize. In July 2012, with her husband, poet Fred Voss, she did her sixth reading tour of England (debuting at the 1991 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival), featured at the Humber Mouth Literature Festival in Hull. She is the author of the literary memoir Charles Bukowski Epic Glottis: His Art & His Women (& me) (Silver Birch Press, 2012). Her writing is featured in LADYLAND, an anthology of writing by American women (13e note Éditions, Paris, 2014). Her poem “Uncle Ray on New Year’s Day . . .” won the 2012 Philadelphia Poets John Petracca Prize. Her latest book is Tales of an Ancient Go-Go Girl.