Rigorous
Volume Five, Issue 3



Marissa Alvarez


Solamente Puerquito

her name is Señora Estrella
or at least that’s what I hear with my head in the display case
she grabs a customer's basket and places the orejas in a paper bag
                                                                                                                     rolling the top haphazardly
flour dusted hands work in the back kitchen heat
it’s warm here               like a family

I’m like the children
                                       waiting to grab piggies
                                       or anything bright like a sugardazzleday
neon pink cookies with rainbow sprinkles that stick to red lipstick

I’m not surprised the round mujer is grabbing empanadas
or that her son is a sticky smile before they get to the register

I miss my family            but I can’t find them in the flavors here
between the bolillos and conchas
between the mothers rushing home arms full of sugar dusted shells
between the sweet breads sold to men in work dusted boots
this place is alive in a way that I am not

my mom said a good mujer always wears gold hoop earrings
I forgot mine today
                                       like I have for the past few years
Mrs. Empanada is wearing hers
she’s looking at me wondering what I’m doing here
                                                                                           without my gold hoops

I put back the cuerno
I’ve learned to live with less
                                                    less calories
                                                    less confection
I get in line to pay for one piggie

the three year old with lavender ribboned ringlets trailed by her grandfather
can barely hold the tongs to reach all the pink in the panaderia
I dust off the thought of me as a pigtail princess rushing in front of my grandfather
piggies for me, chocolate conchas for grandpa
memories and sugar granules fall on worn yellow laminate

             “Es todo?”
Señora Estrella looks at the puerquito
                                                                              alone in the faded green plastic basket
I glance back at the ringlet girl and her abuelo
I remember somewhere in Utah without me
                                                                                                                     my grandfather is watching the sun set
she repeats the question           “Es todo?”
I try to smile
                          or at least not cry



note on the title:
Utilizing English grammatical rules in the title is meant to emphasize the dislocation/friction of living between two cultures. Hopefully also layering the connotation of alone on top of the literal, though grammatically incorrect, translation of only piggie.




Ofrenda for Pandemic

like the Aztecs
we should make it a month long festival this year
the Queen of Mictlan will oversee
sugar skulls, skeleton figurines
the calaveras remind us of our mortality
as the pandemic has done

candles will guide each visitor
we're going to need a lot of candles
or use 1 candle to represent each 100,000 souls we lost

decorate with papel picado
tissue paper as fragile as life in time of corona
perforated so souls can pass through
use blue to ward off evil spirits
purple represents mourning
we plunged into purple for a year

bright orange & hot pink for joyful return
the blaze of orange marigolds - flor de muerto
& its scent guide the path

make pan de muerto - sweet egg bread
circular - representing the cycles of life and death
diagonal incisions for the tears we've shed
this river of grief

burning copal will elevate our prayers
so many prayers
(but not just hollow thoughts & prayers)
baby's breath for remembrance
of those who now drink eternity
we don't worship, we celebrate life

this is your offering to the dead
the ceremony of your ofrenda
the Lady of the Dead will watch over their bones
we will watch over their memory



Marissa Alvarez: “I am a Chicana poet, quite used to being the only person of color in the room; this friction informs my writing (& much else). Having attended high school with the Confederate rebel as a mascot (flying a confederate flag), college in the Midwest, and living in a place referring to itself as Dixie gives me a unique perspective from those in the immediate vicinity. I hope my writing makes others feel connected. Recently two of my poems have come out in The Southern Quill 2021.”




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