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Cuban sandwich

Roast pork and ham. Slice

of Swiss. Dill pickle and

 

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yellow mustard. But it’s

the bread that makes it all

 

work. Falling somewhere

between French and Italian,

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it’s a subtly larded baguette,

honed in the culinary forge

 

of Cuban, Spanish, and Sicilian

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immigrants. Toasted crust,

 

soft and warm on the inside.

The young bakers in La Segunda

 

religiously set a moist palm frond

along the top of each three-foot

 

length of dough before popping

it into a brick oven. (Don’t forget

 

to remove the crisped frond when

it’s time to eat.) The Cuban sandwich

 

was the common cigar-factory worker’s

lunch-pail fare and post-shift snack.

 

But it’s also fuel for Ybor City poets

like me. When home, I sip  café

 

con leche and count the countless

crumbs on the white tablecloth

 

at La Tropicana restaurant on 7 th.

When I’m  not in Ybor and chowing

 

at a lesser joint in, say, Las Vegas,

I study my constellation of specks,

 

hoping these morsels comprise a trail

that tearfully leads to  mi  abuela,

 

improvising a map of freedom with

fragments of food and memory,

 

divining scraps of frying pan-pressed comfort,

this first and last meal of my birthplace.