The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica by Judith Ortiz Cofer

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Choose two or three words that depict the speaker's response to the circumstance in the poem and explain what emotion or tone those words convey.

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This poem describes first the woman who works at the eponymous "Latin Deli," and then the customers who purchase goods from the deli. The customers, who are called "exiles," come from different countries, and all seem to be a little homesick. They seem to visit the store in part for the company of the woman who works there. The poem is narrated from the third person perspective, and the speaker, as such, does not explicitly respond to the characters or events of the poem. However, the language used does suggest that the speaker’s tone is at times affectionate, and at times sympathetic.

For example, describing the woman who works at the deli, the speaker uses words and phrases such as "maternal," "smiles understanding," and "listening." Words and phrases such as these suggest that the woman is caring, attentive and empathetic, which in turn suggests that the speaker has some affection for her.

Describing the customers, the speaker uses words and phrases such as "fragile," "old," "lost," "dreams and … disillusions." Words and phrases such as these suggest that the customers are helpless, wistful, and sad, and that they need to be looked after. The speaker thus seems to be sympathetic towards the customers. The speaker’s sympathy for the customers also explains why he or she feels affection for the woman who works at the deli, as the woman who works at the deli seems to do her best to take care of these customers. Indeed, in the first stanza of the poem, this woman is referred to as "the Patroness of Exiles."

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