Mi Abuelo

Mi Abuelo

By Alberto Ríos

Where my grandfather is is in the ground
where you can hear the future
like an Indian with his ear at the tracks.
A pipe leads down to him so that sometimes
he whispers what will happen to a man
in town or how he will meet the best
dressed woman tomorrow and how the best
man at her wedding will chew the ground
next to her. Mi abuelo is the man
who speaks through all the mouths in my house,
An echo of me hitting the pipe sometimes
to stop him from saying my hair is a
is the only other sound. It is a phrase
he says, and my hair is a sieve is sometimes
repeated for hours out of the ground
when I let him, which is not often.
An abuelo should be much more than a man                                              
like you!
He stops then, and speaks: i am a man                                         
who has served ants with the attitude
of a waiter, who has made each smile as only
an ant who is fat can, and they liked me best,
but there is nothing left.
Yet I know he ground
green coffee beans as a child, and sometimes
he will talk about his wife, and sometimes
about when he was deaf and a man
cured him by mail and he heard groundhogs
talking, or about how he walked with a cane
he chewed on when he got hungry.
At best, mi abuelo is a liar.
I see an old picture of him at nani’s with an
off-white yellow center mustache and sometimes
that’s all I know for sure. He talks best
about these hills, slowest waves, and where this man
is going, and I’m convinced his hair is a sieve,
that his fever is cooled now underground.
Mi abuelo is an ordinary man.
I look down the pipe, sometimes, and see a
ripple-topped stream in its best suit, in the ground.

Summary of Mi Abuelo

  • Popularity of “Mi Abuelo”: “Mi Abuelo” by Alberto Alvaro Ríos, a popular American poet and academic, is an interesting poetic output. The poeم first appeared in 1982 as a representative poem of memories and traditions. The beauty of the poem lies in the determination of the poet to stick to the traditions of paying homage to the ways set by the past generations. He has presented his grandfather as a guiding star for the family despite his long departure from the world.
  • Mi Abuelo” As a Representative of Traditions and Relations: The poet opens the poem with his first person account, presenting his grandfather as how he still guides them about their future despite his death a long time ago. This makes it clear that he is an American Indian who has stuck to the tradition of getting guidance from the wisdom of the old generation. These traditions are now guidelines for weddings, dressings, and other general behavior. It seems that his grandfather is still with them in the house and he guides them about everything. The phrase “my hair is a sieve” continues to reverberate in their lives after his death.
    Then he recalls his childhood when he used to grind the coffee, talking to his wife about his deafness. He also recalls his daily walks and his efforts to hear groundhogs or when he used to chew food in old age. Although he calls him a liar as he used to talk to him about hills and waves, he is convinced that “his hair is a sieve” is a true sentence. Despite these predictions, his grandfather was an ordinary person who used to live with them, yet he was great as the water from the pipe coming out shows this fact.
  • Major Themes in “Mi Abuelo”: Love for the forefathers, traditions, and truth are three major themes of this poem. The poet pays his respects to his grandfather from the very first line to the last line. As a true American Indian, he is aware that his grandfather is long dead and forgotten, but the traditions in his house set by his grandfather still continue that shows their love for their forefathers. These traditions are the words they used to use to guide their children. These traditions are also truths sticking to which has guided them to survive the odds.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used In “Mi Abuelo”

literary devices make poetic output beautiful, meaningful, and interesting. Their appropriate use helped the writers to convey their thoughts impressively. Alberto has also used some literary devices in this poem whose analysis is as follows.

  1. Allusion: This is a reference to some belief, event, phenomenon, or some persona of historical importance as the poet refers to Indian, his indigenousness.
  2. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /e/ in “men at her wedding will chew the ground” the sound of /o/ in “dressed woman tomorrow and how the best” and “all the mouths in my house”, and the sound of /a/ in “who has served ants with attitude.”
  3. Alliteration: It means to show the use of initial consonants in the two close occurring words such as /w/ in “wedding will” and /h/ in “he heard.”
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /m/ and /h/ “cured him by mail and he heard groundhogs” and the sound of /p/ and /t/ in “ripple-topped stream in its best suit, in the ground.”
  5. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example;

Mi abuelo is an ordinary man.
I look down the pipe, sometimes, and see a
ripple-topped stream in its best suit, in the ground.

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Alberto Ríos has used imagery in this poem such as “that his fever is cooled now underground”, “I look down the pipe, sometimes, and see a” and “ripple-topped stream in its best suit, in the ground.”
  2. Personification: The poem shows the use of personifications of a pipe as if it has life and emotions of its own.
  3. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows the use of symbols of construction such as pipe, coffee grinding, mail and groundhogs to point out Indian culture in America.
  4. Simile: The poem shows the use of similes such as “where you can hear the future / like an India.”

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Mi Abuelo”

 Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction and Tone: The poem shows the use of informal and formal diction with poetic quality and a serious tone.
  2. Free Verse: The poem does not follow any rhyming pattern. Therefore, it is a free verse poem.
  3. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. This poem has no stanza. It is a long stanza having 35 verses.

Quotes to be Used

These lines from “Mi Abuelo” are appropriate to quote when talking about the forefathers.

Where my grandfather is in the ground
where you can hear the future
like an Indian with his ear at the tracks.