Mother Makes Paella
Mother makes paella in the morning,
asks me to slice an onion. Outside
a battle waits with soldiers scaled
in armor, sticks sharp enough to poke
out an eye. In her flowered blue apron
and big fuzzy slippers, Mother makes
paella in the morning. Father hides
in the basement fixing things
with rusted tools. The air smells dank.
She asks me to slice with a dull knife. When
father goes on trips, I sneak downstairs
to his red and yellow chest full of magazines.
Mother makes paella in the morning. I slice
and fight back tears. Soldiers never had to
do this I say. She laughs and cuffs my ears.
I hear victory on the hill behind the garden.
Losers have to chew wild rhubarb. Mother makes
paella in the morning. I slice with eyes barely
open. Father stumbles up the basement stairs,
looks at me. He sits to eat. I sit in silence,
listen to them talk, try to break the code,
while picking out all the onions.
by Jim Zola
Editor’s Note: This poem’s refrain is threaded throughout the poem in unexpected places, skillfully highlighting the immature emotional state of the young narrator.