"Abuelito Who" Analysis

><><by Jaun Chapa

The title of this poem, Abuelito Who, literally translates into Grandpa Who. It is about a little girl who is remembering her grandfather after he goes away. This story has a message; my interpretation of this message is that nothing lasts forever, not even good relationships.

The first two lines,
"Abuelito who throws coins like rain
and asks who loves him,"

portrays a grandparent not unlike other grandparents who enjoy spoiling their grandchildren. It shows that her grandpa cares for her and has a pretty normal relationship. This passage reminds of how my grandparents like to send me some money for my birthday. Doing such an action obviously is a way to earn the granddaughters' love. Hence the line "and asks who loves him."

The next three lines,
''who is dough and feathers
who is a watch and a glass of water
whose hair is made of fur, "

not only describes the grandpa's belongings and physical features, but describes grandpa as those belongings and facial features. Along with the choppy language of the poem, this gives the impression that the author is remembering whatever she can about her grandfather. So far, it really creates an image of an old rugged man with a doughy physique and a glass of water (probably for some sort of medication). The watch could possibly serve as a symbol for his life which is ticking away. The water mentioned in the same line could symbolize some sort of youth that he is trying to maintain or it could be symbolic for the fact that it has some healing purposes that he requires in his old age. The next line,
"is too sad to come downstairs today,"
is a strange line considering that the poem has already established the feeling that she hasn't seen her grandpa in a long time and is trying to remember him the best he can. It is like the author suddenly has a flashback while writing the poem.

The next three lines,
"who tells me in spanish you are my diamond
who tells me in English you are my sky
whose eyes are like string,"

shows more of a grandfather who loves her granddaughter. However, unlike the previous lines, it doesn't portray a grandfather spoiling her granddaughter. This is a part of the poem that reminds the reader that the poem is not about an ordinary grandfather, but an abuelito. This part of the poem emphasizes the fact that the grandpa is Chicano by showing that he is bilingual. He says to her both "you are my diamond [in spanish]" and "you are my sky." The fact that she says "who tells me in spanish you are my diamond" instead of "tu eres mi dimante" shows that she really wants this poem to appeal to a wider range of people instead of just Mexican Americans and other Latinos. It also reminds the reader that the author derives a lot of her literary themes from her culture as well as her family. "whose eyes are like string" illustrates his eyes which are narrowed from old age and personal experience, giving the reader the impression of sagacious eyes.

Next the poem says,
"can't come out to play
sleeps in his room all night and day
who used to laugh like the letter k
is sick
is a doorknob tied to a sour stick
is tired shut the door
doesn't live here anymore
which shows that the grandpa is (not surprisingly) getting old. All of a sudden, the mood of the poem changes as the reader realizes the grim reality that the grandfather-granddaughter relationship is withering away along with the grandfather's health and youth. The granddaughter seems ignorant as to how grave this is turning out to be, as she simply says that "[he] can't come out to play" and "[he] sleeps in his room all night and day." To further push the sentimentality of this section is the phrase "who used to laugh like the letter k". This just makes the poem more meaningful and sad to the reader. The style and language of this passage really shows that the author is portraying herself as a little girl in the way that she talks about how her grandpa can't come out and play with her today. On another note, this passage does give more description about the grandfather. It gives the reader "who used to laugh like the letter k," and "is a doorknob tied to a sour stick." The first passage tells us about his cackling when he laughs. The second passage is uncertain in terms of meaning, but I personally think that this is describing a makeshift cane. After all, the author did grow up in a working class Mexican-American neighborhood in Chicago. Making a cane is obviously a way to save money. "Is tired, shut the door" pretty much symbolizes the moment where the grandpa leaves the granddaughter. This is confirmed by the next line: "doesn't live here anymore," which almost suggests that he died (if not literally, certainly metaphorically).

The final lines of the poem,
"is hiding underneath the bed
who talks to me inside my head
is blankets and spoons and big brown shoes
who snores up and down up and down up and down again
is the rain on the roof that falls like coins
asking who loves him
who loves him who?,
creates a dynamic shift in the poem in two ways. First off, there is yet another mood change from sad and melancholy to confused and scared. This fear and confusion can be seen by the lines like "is hiding underneath the bed" and "who talks to me inside my head," which both portray a disturbed child. Secondly, the granddaughter in the poem starts using her imagination and thus creating a fine line between fact and fiction. This can be seen in such lines as "who snore up and down...again" and "is rain on the roof that falls like coins." The first of these lines describes the granddaughter hearing what she thinks is her grandfather's snoring. The second of these lines describes her imagining the rain as her grandpa throwing coins off the roof. This is also the point of the poem that winds down by ending the same way it started. In the beginning she was comparing the coins her grandpa threw to rain and now she is comparing the rain to her grandfather's throwing coins. Next, it ends by saying "asking who loves him...who loves him who?" These last two lines create a sort of paradox in a way that it winds the poem down, but in the same way leaves the reader in a state of unrest because of the question posed. What further makes the last question haunting is the way it is unanswerable. First off, the question doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Secondly, it seems like the sort of nonsensical thing a child would ask. For these two reasons, this question finds a way to bore itself in the back of the reader's mind.

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