“Hay Elote” by Michael Jon Khandelwal

Michael Jon Khandelwal


Hay elote, he shouts
outside my window; I have wondered for years
what message he was bringing. Today,
I learned: there is corn.
I remember growing
up, seeing rows of cornstalks,
sampling the first of the harvest,
smothered in butter and salt.
Hay elote, the man sings out;
corn, it seems, exists here, too. Perhaps
I am not far from the eastern sunrise,
not far from corn,
feeding us all, in the communion
of hunger for food. The sun is huge
over a field; stalks bristle
in the wind. This man knows,
brings corn to my house, offers
me my mother’s hands
in a crowded street.

from Rattle #29, Summer 2008


Michael Jon Khandelwal: “When I lived in Los Angeles, every day, a man would walk by my house shouting—I investigated and found he was selling fresh corn. Something about that touched me, reminded me of my days living in Virginia, days when I would explore the cornfields. I was astonished by this man, and how his words—in a language I didn’t know—sparked my memory so vividly. Of course, I wrote a poem about this man and his corn, as poems, for me, come from the astonishing experience of living.”

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