At Burrito Brothers: Vancouver, BC — June 2013 by Malcolm Friend

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


You, Chris, Rina, and Nam
watch Game 7 of the NBA Finals:
Spurs-Heat.
Stuff your faces
with burrito bombers,
house specialty
loaded with pork,
laced with pico and salsa
and you don’t even like pico,
the chunks of tomato
punctured in your mouth,
but something about this
feels right.

The owner asks
if you play basketball,
lengthy Black man you are.
Well, not so much asks
as makes a jump shot motion
with her hands
and says You basketball?
You respond in Spanish,
a simple gesture
that turns into a conversation:

-¿Eres latino?
-Sí, mi papá e’ de Puerto Rico.
-Tú hablas como un puertorriqueño.

Chris comments
that he’s never heard you
speak Spanish.
You tell him
you’ve never had reason to
around him.

Soon enough she’s trash talking
your Spurs
and asking if you dance salsa
because Gilberto Santa Rosa
will be in Vancouver
come August.

But you don’t really care.
You think you are doing her a favor
by continuing to speak.
You don’t know her pain.
You speak like a Puerto Rican
who learned English first.

So you wolf down
your burrito,
force tomatoes to bleed
in your mouth
even though you don’t like pico.

What makes you different
from any anglo
who will walk in here
long after you leave?


Malcolm Friend is a poet originally from the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. He received his BA from Vanderbilt University, where he was the 2014 recipient of the Merrill Moore Prize for Poetry, and is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also a 2014 recipient of a Talbot International Award for writing. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as La Respuesta magazine, the Fjords Review’s Black American Edition, Alicante’s Información, fields magazine, Pretty Owl Poetry and elsewhere.