“Ode to Mami’s Kitchen”

By Keishla Rivera-Lopez

This is the place
where I learned my place
in the family. I was meant
to be here. To cook. To
clean. To serve. To do
for others first, and myself
second.

This is the place
I’d watch
mami with furrowed brows,
a red face, and frizzy hair work
her magic. With her hands she
ailed sickness, fed us nutrition
and life. Her hands held mine and
taught me what they knew when
she was a little girl.

This is the place
I inherit my legacy.
Soon my hands, too, molded
liquids into edible and delectable
solids for birthdays, holidays, and
the every day. With time, I memorized
the recipes that archived our family
history through taste. We talked
about what happened,
in the past, and shared stories
mostly untold. In Mami’s kitchen,
we tasted sofritos, sazones, and blends
that once derived from our ancestors.
We ate the fruits of their labor
and survival in the motherland.
In this place daughters became
mothers and matriarchs.

This is the place
that I miss the most when
I am no longer home. It was
the place that taught me
at what temperature to cook
when I long for what home tastes
and smells like.


Keishla Rivera-Lopez is a poet, writer and scholar. She received a PhD in American Studies at the Graduate School-Newark at Rutgers University where she was a 2019-2020 Dean’s Dissertation Fellow. She was born and raised in Newark, NJ to Puerto Rican migrants and reflects on what it means to be a child of diaspora in her scholarship and writing. Currently, Dr. Rivera-Lopez is an Assistant Professor of English and Latinx Literatures and Cultures at Millersville University. Keishla enjoys writing poetry, short-stories, and essays from her travel and everyday experiences as a Puerto Rican woman. She also enjoys experimenting with different sazons and sofritos, hiking, dancing and traveling.

Featured image by Pexels