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Buñuelos
by liz gonzález

Grandma stands at the kitchen counter
like a luchador in an apron, ready for a match.
She slaps stretched dough onto its back,
rolls a hacked-off broomstick over the top,
twists to the stove and slides
the full-moon tortilla into an iron pan.
Boiling oil swallows, spits, hisses
until the tortilla blisters, crisps.
She dips her pincher fingers in quick,
snatches the crunchy wafer from its bath,
flips it onto a paper towel lined plate,
slathers the top with cinnamon-piloncillo syrup,
and plops the sweet treat on the plastic
pink placemat in front of me. I blow on it,
pick it up with both hands, and take a bite.
The buñuelo breaks into a twenty pieces.
I lick up the crumbs, sugar, my sticky fingers
Grandma leaps back to the counter
for another smackdown.

SOURCE: An earlier version of “Buñuelos” was published in Art / Life, August 2001m and Lummis Day Souvenir Program, June 2008.

PHOTOGRAPH: lizzy’s eighth birthday, August 22, 1967.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTO:  This is my eighth birthday celebration in the kitchen of my childhood home. In the picture are Grandma, my sisters Cynthia (older) and Michelle, and me. It was the last year I celebrated my birthday alone. Monique, my baby sister, was born the next year on the day before my birthday and to this day we celebrate together.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When my father died, I was three and my baby sister had just turned one. My maternal grandmother, who helped run her parents’ market as a teen and then ran her own family market, quit working at 53 to be our second mother while my mother and grandfather were at work. For seven years, even after my mother remarried and had two more daughters, Grandma took care of us during the day and remained our second mother until she passed five and a half years ago. She said that those years were some of the best years of her life. During those years, she taught us how to make traditional Mexican food, like tortillas, mole, and buñuelos. My sisters, mother, and I will always be grateful to Grandma.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
liz gonzález, writes poetry, fiction, and memoir. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including Inlandia: A Literary Journey, Silver Birch Press’s “Where I Live” Series, BorderSenses Literary & Arts Journal, and Wide Awake: The Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond. Her awards include an Irvine Fellowship at the Lucas Artists Residency Program and an Arts Council for Long Beach Professional Artist Fellowship. Currently, liz lives in Uptown Long Beach, is the host and curator of Uptown Word, a poetry and storytelling reading series, and teaches creative writing at community venues and through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. For info: www.lizgonzalez.com

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Though you may not drive
a great big Cadillac
Gangsta whitewalls,
TV antennas in the back . . .
You can still stand tall
Just be thankful for what you got

Be Thankful for What You Got,”
William DeVaughn (1974)

THANKFUL FOR WHAT I GOT
by liz gonzález

In my North Town neighborhood,
pit bulls and German shepherds,
trained to kill, jump spiked fences
and crunch Chihuahuas like taquitos.
I carry a big stick when walking Chacho,
my cream and caramel Jack Chi.
We circle a two-block radius,
stuck on flat concrete and asphalt,
stuck seeing the same houses and streets.
Whenever we can, Chacho and I
hop in my ‘95 Toyota Tercel,
and make a quick escape.

We park at the Signal Hill
Home Depot lot,
hike up Skyline Drive,
up the gated community’s
winding paved paths,
past the squeak of bobbing oil pumps.
I’m breathless; Chacho’s ready to run.
We speed walk around Hilltop
Park’s rim and Panorama Drive.
Air swept by Santa Ana winds
reveals Los Angeles high rises
and San Bernardino mountains.
The cobalt blue Walter
Pyramid rises from treetops.
Huntington Beach’s jagged
shore shimmers and froths.
Off the coast of Long Beach,
yachts and freight ships
sail by artificial THUMS Islands.
Behind the Queen Mary,
gantry cranes stand erect,
like metal dinosaurs
ready to do some heavy lifting.

Chacho leads the way on White
Point’s foot-carved trails.
Concrete frames brush, ocean,
and sky in Battery Bunkers’
empty gun encasement.
Salt and sage scent the breeze.
Fennel, that interloper,
waves tiny yellow buds.
A cactus wren feasts
on swollen prickly pear fruit.
Chacho pulls the leash taut
while I stand in awe of the view.
Catalina Island on a fog-free day.
White sunlight rides the ripples.
A lone speedboat
rips the serene surface.

A supermoon illuminates
the Seal Beach boardwalk.
Dusk dabs stuttering clouds
purple-pink. The sinking sun
spills amber honey into lampposts
lining the wooden pier.
Chacho can’t read “No Dogs.”
He runs unleashed, kicking up sand
smooth as a whisper.

After a two or more mile jaunt,
my t-shirt sweat-drenched,
we lounge on Beachwood BBQ’s
dog-friendly patio
in downtown Long Beach.
Chacho nibbles on corn bread.
I sip a pint of craft lager,
eat a small salmon salad—
my version of suds and grub,

and give grace.

PHOTOGRAPH: “Chacho at White Point Royal Palms Beach” (San Pedro, California) by liz gonzález.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: liz gonzález is a fourth generation Southern Californian. Her poetry, fiction, and memoirs have appeared in numerous literary journals, periodicals, and anthologies. She has poems forthcoming in Wide Awake: The Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond and is the author of the limited edition poetry collection Beneath Bone. liz’s awards include an Irvine Fellowship at the Lucas Artists Residency Program and a Macondo Foundation Casa Azul Writer’s Residency. She works as writing consultant and teaches creative writing through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Visit her at www.lizgonzalez.com.