16 pages 32 minutes read

Sandra Cisneros

Abuelito Who

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1922

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One of the poem’s most impactful themes is the idea of change, and even someone as young as the speaker must learn its harsh lesson. Things do not stay the same even though the speaker wants them to, even expects them to. Nearly all of the verbs within the poem are in the present tense, “throws coins” (Line 1), “is dough and feathers” (Line 3), “sleeps in his little room” (Line 11). The speaker presents nearly everything about the grandfather as if it is habitual or perpetual. For the young girl, her grandfather is a monumental figure, a steady and unwavering presence in her short life thus far. She must reconcile the notion that he will always be present in her life with his increasing absence that finally becomes permanent. The speaker attempts to deal with the stress and confusion of losing this consistent person slowly over time.

The change does not happen instantly like a car wreck, but slowly with a progressing illness—persistent, unstoppable, and unavoidable—forcing the young speaker to adapt to the painfully slow progression. The gradual change is reflected in the text, making its debut on Line 6, “is too sad to come downstairs today.” The speaker doesn’t linger on this, assuming it is a momentary blip in the accustomed routine.