relationship on a new level by echoing his respectful, “Buenas noches, Doña Corazón” (115). These two Spanish lines signify that Manuel’s wife and Manuel’s informally “adopted” son are now partners and will face the future with courage, together. A grieving Corazón will find her freedom in going out to meet life, instead of retreating from it into sorrow.
In conclusion, Judith Ortiz Cofer’s writing has a way of arresting minds, the way the chameleon in her eponymous poem kept his eyes on her, she says, “as if waiting / for me to change” (147). Her refrain, “[b]ut I stayed the same” echoes through that poem, and the counterpointing leitmotif, “He just kept his eyes on me / as if waiting for me to change,” becomes a direct challenge to her readers (147). But the challenge of the wise, all-seeing chameleon is a gentle one, no matter how direct. In The Latin Deli, Cofer shows us biculturalism’s isolation and consolations, and we also see much joy in a world bursting with color and music, beautiful images, and fluent diction.
Each time I close the book after another reading of its nourishing, revivifying fare, I think of the achingly seductive image in the poem, “How to Get a Baby” (119). I read to affirm I am not alone, to change, and to connect; in some sense, I read, as Cofer says, “to get a baby” (119). And when I have done as Cofer’s poem describes, gone to the sea (of her writing’s truths), fresh from my lover’s arms, and when I sit in the shallow water where, it is said, the waiwaia (spirit children) are drawn to the “love smell,” I, too, know that when I close this book, I am carrying “new life”—new ways of looking at and understanding life. And I feel that delicious recognition of this fact when I feel in my psyche “the tide / pull[ing] away from [me] / like an exhausted lover” (119).