A Blanquito In El Barrio
by Gil Fagiani
I had the sizzle in my chisel for Nilsa,
dug her big eyes, moist, meaty lips,
color and curves like sculpted teakwood.
One night I took her to Papo's Cuchifritos.
She'd been playing hard to get all summer long
and I figured a belly full of spicy pig parts and fritters
might open her up to other bodily pleasures.
I'd eaten cuchifritos once before
after a night of blowing weed
and tossing down Bacardi with Manny and Count
the former president and warlord of a local street gang
--"We even had our own social worker "--Count boasted.
We'd finished harmonizing such doo wop classics
as "Deserie," "Wind" and "Gloria,"
under the archway of the Park Avenue El
when Count pulled out a wad of bills
--birthday money, he claimed--and said,
"let's grit at Papo's," a cuchifrito joint on 116th Street.
Beneath blazing light bulbs over front window metal bins,
Count pointed to orejas, rabitos, morcillas,
acapurias, pastelillos, rellenos de papa.
Juggling white cardboard boxes dripping cooking oil,
we sat on car fenders and ate pig's ears, pig tails,
blood sausages, fritters and meat-filled potato balls.
The swagger of that night stayed with me
as Nilsa and I walked into Papo's
and copped squats on steel shiny stools.
I pointed to half a dozen bins
and soon cuchifritos were piled high in front of us.
Before I could pick up my fork
Nilsa grabbed a fire-red bottle
and bathed a bacalaito--codfishfritter--
with Louisiana hot sauce devouring it in three bites.
Then she picked up the tip of an oreja
and began to chew on the rubbery cartilage,
her teeth making loud crunching sounds.