Gathering Ingredients for Sancocho in Appalachia During a Pandemic

by Amy M. Alvarez

I find platanos easily enough 
I can do without cassava,
but no one here has heard of chayote,
even after I look online and find
the ugly English word for it.

It’s not that I like the bland vegetable
pear, but it seems necessary in its
greeness, its refusal to soften 
and melt away into the stew,
how it stands up to the sofrito.

My mother’s sancocho had chunks
of chayote so big, I cut them with 
my spoon just to fit them into my mouth. 

I have not felt my mother’s hands
for fifteen months. 

I get my first vaccine. I make sancocho
with zucchini, with butternut squash.
It almost tastes the way I remember.

* Writing Prompt: Use the word “food” as a prompt. List words or phrases that come to mind, keeping meals or ingredients that are unique to your culture in mind. Using some of the words from your list, write a poem that captures you or someone else making a special dish. Describe the ingredients or techniques used in preparation. Show what makes this meal matter to you right now.

The Blueprint

by Kimberly Reyes

I sit with Gwendolyn
we shuck green peas
over large rusty cylinders
over bent ashy knees.
Deep in red clay
she smacks my hand:
Stop fidgeting child
focus.

She says the names don’t matter
the tastes, the plains
the lessons are the same
distraction spends time
costs lives:
Fill the bucket.

Snap and stop for the sap of green —
snap and feel the round
the rise under forefinger
snap without stopping.
Snap, stop looking down!
Peas aren’t all seeds
let the red ground eat.

“The Blueprint” is from RUNNING TO STAND STILL (c) FALL 2019 by Kimberly Reyes.The poem appears with the permission of Omnidawn Publishing. All rights reserved.

* Writing Prompt: Write a poem in conversation with the poet that gave you permission to see and understand yourself as an artist.

This issue of The Hard Work of Hope is produced in partnership with CantoMundo.


Amy M. Alvarez

Amy M. Alvarez has been awarded fellowships from CantoMundo, VONA, Macondo, VCCA, and Furious Flower Poetry Center. Her poetry has appeared in Crazyhorse, The Missouri Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, PRISM international, Rattle, and Sugar House Review. Born in New York City to Jamaican and Puerto Rican parents, she now lives and teaches in West Virginia.


Kimberly Reyes

Kimberly Reyes is the author of the poetry collections Running to Stand Still (Omnidawn 2019) and Warning Coloration (dancing girl press 2018). Her nonfiction book of essays Life During Wartime (Fourteen Hills 2019) won the 2018 Michael Rubin Book Award. Published and anthologized in numerous international outlets, Kimberly writes about identity, ecology, and sexuality, and spends her time between Ireland, San Francisco and New York City.