Under The Bridge
on Saturday mornings mama would dress us children and take
us under the bridge. under the bridge was our name for the
marketplace in spanish harlem located under a bridge. it was also
known as la marqueta. it was made up of rows and rows of one
story buildings. in these buildings were the finest fruits, vegetables,
poultry, meats, produce, colorful clothing and goods for the house.
a trip under the bridge was a magical adventure for us children. what
i loved most about under the bridge was mama. i loved watching
mama shop. mama’s movements became a dance, a song, a poem,
a legacy of food and our lives.
mama, i saw you shopping in the market filling your basket with love.
i saw your loving hands and determined eyes squeezing tomatoes and
melon. i saw your steps and the smile on your charcoal face reaching
for each fruit and vegetable. you caressed chicken and fish with the
same tenderness you tickled us children, only the best will be chosen
for your sacred pots. i saw your heart shopping in the market filled
with thoughts of mixing mother ingredients in your kitchen to fill our
i heard your laughter in chorus with the women and saw your pride as
each woman echoed how pretty and big i had become. they insisted
even when you protested on putting a penny, nickel or dime in the little
purse i carried. i smiled and thanked them. you watched as i counted
each treasured coin and waited eagerly until you walked in the part of
the market that sold beautiful scarves, earrings, dresses, blouses and
skirts. you pretended not to see me making my purchase. i saw you
keeping a close eye on the merchants, bartering with your eyes.
laughing and skipping home i fought the urge to reveal my package’s
contents and did.
after supper we children waited for the appropriate moment and
presented you with our hearts. you expressing surprise, while we
jumped up and down asking you to open it. what is this, you asked?
it seemed like an eternity before your trembling fingers unwrapped
our gift. there before our eyes was a beautiful red laced shawl with
flowers. your eyes filled with tears. everyone asking to touch the soft
material. we jumped up and down, singing put it on mama, put it on!
you draped it around your shoulders to our delight. you’re a queen
mama, you’re a queen echoed throughout the rooms of our apartment.
when did this happen? you asked repeatedly and we smiled. you held
us close to your heart.
when I think of mama i think of her loving hands, charcoal face,
determined eyes and sacred pots.
Lorraine Currelley is a widely anthologized writer and poet. She facilitates clinical as well as creative writing and poetry workshops. She has been awarded and recognized for her work with intergenerational populations,
literary organizations and commitment to community service. She’s the founder and executive director for Poets Network & Exchange, Inc. In 2017 she became the first woman executive director for the Bronx Book Fair.