I am going to marry the latina grocery girl
That works at the Pioneermart at the bottom of the hill
The girl with ink black hair and the proud native nose
Who asks ¿papel o plástico?
The girl with the fetching gap between her front teeth
That makes her smile a manifesto of liberation
For the space between incisors.

The marriage is a disaster
Her mother hates me
Her brothers hate me
My mother hates her
Mi esposa supermercado
And our gap-toothed daughters
With their ink black hair in braids

Yes, mother, her English isn't the best.
But my Spanish is nothing to write home about.
Well, yes, I guess I didn't write home about it
Until we were married
But I thought you would be happy because
It was a lovely Catholic ceremony

We are cast out
From the mountains
The city
The beach
So we move to an empty town in Kansas
Where our daughters grow up
Tall and bright like sunflowers
The four of them
Tall and bright
The lovely gaps between their front teeth
That make their every smile a manifesto of liberation
For the space between oceans.

The poem Mi Esposa Supermercado by Igloowhite has multiple layers. On the surface, it is the bittersweet story of a man playing out in his mind what would happen if he were to marry the pretty girl at the market. When understood on a deeper level, this poem points to the current reality of the racial divide. Richard Delgado, in his essay Storytelling for Opposites and Others, defined the word “counterstory” as a story created by people outside the mainstream to show a point of view that differs from the dominant mindset. This piece is an example of a counterstory; through the characterizations, setting, language and even stereotyped images, the poem gets its political agenda across in a gentle way.

The language gives a sense of setting and points to the social and racial status of the characters. The Latina grocery girl is beguiling, with her “ink black hair and her proud native nose”. The author’s use of the antiquated (and oh-so-gringo) word “fetching” to describe the girl’s teeth contrast with her place in the world, down at the bottom of the hill. Her menial job at the market further indicates her low social class, but when she asks the mundane question “¿papel o plástico?” in Spanish, she is exotic and sounds almost musical. He lives above her, on the hill, and has an aura of male power. He doesn’t say he is dreaming of her or that he wishes she would love him, but that he is “going to marry her”. His language is full of purpose and masculine surety. In his placement of characters in their setting, the author shows how race, gender and class differences are felt in his daily life.

Whereas the first stanza of the poem is about love and infatuation, the next two are driven by hatred. “The marriage is a disaster” because of the hate people on the outside feel towards their union. Even though the husband and wife are overcoming the obstacle of separate languages, outsiders shun them. Their mothers and brothers represent the expectations that families have for their children to marry within their ethnic and social circles, keeping traditions and culture alive from one generation to the next. The voice of the poem changes as the author addresses his mother; he suddenly becomes the apologetic son, indicating that the mothers are disappointed and judgmental. Though he points out a cultural similarity - their religion, the outsiders even hate the innocent and beautiful mixed-race daughters. Like the mothers, the brothers are a symbol of how steeped in cultural exclusivity people can be. They have nothing to gain by shunning their sister and her new family, but they cannot accept a racially mixed couple in their midst. As a result of all this hate, the couple and their daughters are banished, “cast out” of their home, forced to make a new home for themselves in an empty town in the middle of America. In the real world, hatred does force people from their homes. In highlighting this situation in the form of poetry, the author gently leads the reader to his political point – that hatred serves no purpose but to tear people apart.

In contrast to the vivid images of the family being hated and banished, the utopia the author imagines in Kansas is not as well formed. He instead focuses on the imaginary daughters and their gap-toothed smiles, growing up “tall and bright like sunflowers”. He comes back to the gaps in their teeth once again but this time with a twist: instead of describing a simple smile or how they resemble their mother, the gaps are “manifesto(s) of liberation for the space between oceans.” The land between oceans is the America that needs to be liberated from the constraints of race and social hatred. In using the four wonderful daughters to make his point, the author makes this counterstory “appear to be noncoercive and invites the reader to suspend judgment, listen for the point or message, and then decide what measure of truth they contain.”(Delgado).

Throughout the poem, the author uses stereotyped characters to tell the story. This device is effective in a short story or poem that has a point to get across quickly, it places immediate pictures in the reader’s mind about the situations of the people in the stories. The grocery girl is a stereotype, with her “proud native nose” and her job at the market. The critical mother-in-laws who hate their children’s choice of mates are stereotypes, as are the Mexican brothers who hate him for taking away their sister. Stereotypes can be damaging in the real world, defining and reinforcing the divisions between people of different races, genders, religions, and social classes; but in a fable like this one, stereotypes are a tool to get the reader thinking about the political, moral or theme immediately.

In Storytelling for Opposites and Others, Richard Delgado writes:

“Stories, parables, chronicles and narratives are powerful means for destroying mindset – the bundle of presuppositions, received wisdoms, and shared understandings against a background of which legal and political discourse takes place.”
This quote aptly describes Mi Esposa Supermercado, for it contains a powerful theme encased in a daydream of finding happiness with someone outside the divisions of class and race. The multiple layers of the poem invite a second and third reading, and the political statement doesn’t diminish the reader’s enjoyment of the poem. This is a dream of blurring the racial line, where anyone can fall in love with anyone else and children of all colors are free to grow up as tall and bright as a sunflower.

this node was brought to you by Ouroboros who likes nodes and by Sensei, who told me to node my homework, and especially by Igloowhite who wrote Mi Esposa Supermeracdo which is one of my very favorite poems.

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