by Mary Teresa Toro

Rocking, slowly rocking,
fanning herself more from habit than from heat,
la doña sits on the balcón,
thinking of the old days -
of fiestas, bodas, and bautizos.
remembering her family, so many, so long gone,

She fans herself and rocks
waiting to join them…

fan open
             click, swish…
fan closed
               swish, clack

rocking, remembering,
absently fanning herself .
The creaking rhythm of the rocker and swishing of the fan
create a pleasant harmony,
the music of her life now that she is old and waits,

“Every fine lady must have a fine fan,”
he had written on the card in the box
decorated with their monogram,
initials as entwined as their lives would soon be.

The fan was made of the finest ivory,
intricately carved with filigrees and gold leaf on each rib,
the lace and ribbons of purest white,
as she and he had been,
she for him alone and he for her.
The ribbons and lace are now frayed and
yellowed with age,
the ivory carvings smooth with wear,
the gold leaf worn away

Yet it is with her always,
as it had been through labor and childbirth,
parties, school plays, her daughter’s wedding, and
the funeral of her son -
dead in a war fought for a country not his own,
a place of sand and heat and death,
with no sapphire blue ocean, no tropical breeze,
a land far from their beloved Borinquén,

click, swish…
            swish, clack

Essential pointers at family gatherings,
more discrete than fingers,
or so the doñas thought

the fans would flick
             open… click, swish…
                         close…swish, clack,

the symphony of openings and closings,
cooling their faces but not their tongues.

click, swish…
            swish, clack…

the whispers, quiet laughs and smiles
all hidden behind their dainty handheld screens.

As the doñas gossiped,
their men played dominos and drank Don Q or cerveza Corona,
the clicking fans echoing the clacking tiles.
The banter of long friendships was broken only by
the occasional slap of a winning ficha.
The men laughed watching their wives,
wondering who was being roasted like a lechón,

knowing it was better to attend these reuniones
than to be the topic of conversation.

click, swish…
            swish, clack

She held it at his funeral,
not to cool herself, for
she felt the chill of loneliness already pressing in,
but as a memory in her hand-
used then to shield not laughter, but the tears of parting.

She packed it carefully when she moved to her daughter’s house.
She brought only the fan and two sillónes, his and hers,
which sit here now, side by side, as always
She reaches for his hand,
finds only the cool wooden arm worn smooth by his palm.
She sighs and rocks …
                       remembering …

fanning herself more from habit than from heat…

click, swish…
            swish, clack


Mary Teresa Toro is a late bloomer baby boomer who just achieved her lifelong goal of receiving a bachelor's degree in English Language and Literature. She will begin her quest for an MFA in writing in January 2021. Although she is seventy-one years old, her motto is ¡INDY! (I'm Not Dead Yet). Mary Teresa lives in Central Florida with Frank, her husband of over fifty years, and Bitsie, a ten pound mix of daschund and mystery.