Michelle Young: la hallaca

la hallaca

my mother makes hallacas
nearly every december
she learned how to make them
from my grandmother
la hallaca requires days
of tired hands
bickering aunts
and messy countertops
the soft smell of boiling banana leaves
floats around the kitchen
sneaks through bedrooms
and sinks into clothes
the outer layer is glossy
leaves held together by string
food squeezed inside
waiting to be discovered
with memories of my mother standing tired
at the stove top with greasy fingers
hair spilling from her ponytail yelling
do not eat the hallaca with your hands
do not try to grab it and take a bite
this isn’t an empanada
unwrap the banana leaves
don’t eat them                 now
in the square of cornmeal
chicken / beef / pork spill out
hallacas in houses
of families who left
venezuela serve as a memory
the taste of what once was

Michelle Young is an emerging Venezuelan-Canadian writer based in Vancouver, British Columbia. She writes poetry on mother-daughter relationships, food, and cultural heritage. Previously, she has worked as a News Editor and Staff Writer at The Peak and served as a Writing Intern at Study Breaks Magazine. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and a minor in Creative Writing at Simon Fraser University.