Two Poems

José B. González

The Man of the House

When he left to the U.S., 

he said nothing to me 

about eating or reading, 

just said to be el hombre 

de la casa. Me. The man 

of the house. 

He was thin with thinning 

hair. I was still learning 

to multiply my nines. 

At church the next day 

the priest read from Luke, 

Bienaventurados los que ahora tenéis hambre, blessed are those who hunger, he said, as he raised his arms toward the sky. 

Even then, I knew to doubt the pages.

Reading a Manual

Her Mystic Hotel employee manual,  thicker

than the mop handle she uses to clean hotel 

rooms, makes it clear how her hours

are counted and not counted, how she 

has to punch in and punch out, even

when she takes a break, even when she 

is working during that break, and it

adds that she needs to greet hotel guests 

with courtesy and respect. Although it

doesn’t say the customer is always right, 

when I translate for her, she is right, it

means that she would get fired if she tells 

them vaya al carajo, and the manual also

says that she is to wear her name tag all 

the time (pero nadie usa mi nombre)

and that her uniform is to be ironed 

and clean at all times (¿pero que creen, que

soy sucia?) and that she has to speak 

English at work (¿pero si me pongo a cantar

Vicente Fernandez cuando limpio el toilet, 

y que?) and that she is to eat away from

guests in the employee lunch room, 

(mejor, así no me tocan mis frijoles), and

that smoking is limited to an area

in the back of the hotel (¿ayi, donde siempre

andan esas susias?) and that she should park

her car away from the main lot (mejor, 

porque no puedo parquear ese oldsmobile

alli), and that if it snows, the hotel will 

remain open and she should still report to

work (¿y quien va a pagar mi inchuran?)

 

and that should she have any questions

about her tax forms and benefits, she should 

contact the director of personnel (¿la vieja

que siempre esta fumando?) and to be sure 

to sign all the paperwork in the packet. Months

later, the two of us reread the manual and find 

nothing about what to do when her own

supervisor, the one who speaks only English 

doesn’t smoke, and smiles at everyone, goes

into hotel rooms right after guests leave 

and takes all the tips intended for the

maid. Mi mama.

José B. González is the author of Toys Made of Rock and When Love Was Reels. The Editor of Latino Stories, he has been anthologized in The Norton Introduction to Literature and has been published in The Boston Review, Callaloo, Calabash, Palabra, and other journals.