The Ofi Press Magazine

International Poetry and Literature from Mexico City

Mark Fessenden: 1 Poem Published

Poem by Mark Fessenden (USA/ Mexico)

Published in The Ofi Press issue 44

The Chilaquiles Party


I’m taking my tortillas to a chilaquiles party.

Gathering up my totopos for the chilaquiles party.

Coming down from the rooftop with dried tortillas in my apron.

I’m a modern day Juan Diego with a short little ayate.


At this time of year it’s about remembering all the places I’ve left my totopos to dry throughout the year:

the clothesline up on the azotea, the storage room (those have gotten a little moldy). It’s not hard to remember.

I always forget the ones in the bathroom, and somehow a few always end up underneath the twin bed in the living room, the one we use as a couch.


I’m taking my tortillas to the chilaquiles party.

All year long, I’ve been waiting for the chilaquiles party.


Some of my tortillas are tough and leathery.

Others have turned into a pale green mush.

Some have striking patterns formed by beautiful red fungus.

Most are hard like rocks.

I gather them all.

No tortilla’s unfit for the chilaquiles party.


Once I’ve found them all. I throw them into a sack (a pillowcase will do) and take them to the chilaquiles party.


I’m going to a chilaquiles party.

Once-a-year, highly anticipated, chilaquiles party.


I like to get there early so I can savor every moment

And gossip with the women in the kitchen.

I unload the contents of my pillowcase onto the floor and they oooh and ahh,

gently beating their fingers together in repressed exhilaration.

I call their attention to the empty pillowcase

--stained now in colors black, red and green--

and repeat my Juan Diego joke,

turning it inside out and pretending to look for the Virgencita

Or maybe the face of Barack Obama, Hugo Chávez or even Padre Solalinde?

Dolores goes along with it and “finds” the face of Jesus.

It’s the same performance every year.

They’re all kind enough to laugh just the same.


We used to stomp on the (mostly) dry tortillas on the kitchen floor and imagine ourselves as French peasants in modern day Mexico City.

That was until the year Martha sliced her foot open and got a nasty infection.

Now everyone takes a small hammer and a pair of scissors and sits on the floor among a field of totopos, each inside our own personal little crop circles, smashing and snipping up the dried sheets of nixtamalized corn.

What scissors can’t handle, we toss over to Juan, who’s standing at the ready with a miniature guillotine mounted on top of a bedside table.

Finally, when all the tortillas have been sized down and there’s nothing but pear-shaped marks left by our buttocks on the white tile surface,

Helen takes one of those floor squeegees and pushes all the tortilla muck and mildew into a corner.

We’ll add that to the salsa.


Can’t wait for the chilaquiles party

Every year is more surprising than the last.

I slip past Juan and gayly toss my fresh-cut totopos into the vat of bubbling oil Grandma Ermenegilda has been working all night and all morning to get to the perfect temperature.

Sizzle! Snap! Crack! Pop!


Party all the way.


We’re cooking up totopos at the chilaquiles party.

Salsa verde, salsa roja, salsa moho

Chilaquiles party


This year’s sauce is green.

We voted in July.

I haven’t seen red sauce since I was first invited, back in ‘08.

Julio brings his award-winning tomatillos from his family estate in Michoacán.

Yaneth, her potent epazote.

Tonatiuh is in charge of the chilies, though Iván, not happy with a one-chili sauce, always sneaks in some jalapeños and dried guajillos for good measure.

Edgar, who was never invited, nevertheless contributes sea salt farmed near his second home in Manzanillo.


I’m taking my tortillas to a chilaquiles party.

Block party, building party, chilaquiles party. 

About the Poet

Mark Fessenden was born in St. Petersburg, Florida. He lives in Mexico City.

Image: "Tortilla Basket" by David Boté Estrada.