Tongues

It’s recess time and the school playground is filled with laughter.

The kids are reciting tongue twisters like the pledge of allegiance.

When I was 8 I witnessed the Holy Spirit overcome a woman,

She spoke in tongues so fluently I thought she created the language herself.

 

I am twisting my tongue to unlearn my dialect.

Because Peter Piper picked the parts of my people’s persona

And personified the pretty parts of my people.

 

At school, we always knew when our names were up next on the roster,

The teacher’s lips parted and they paused, puzzled

We settled for nicknames and American pronunciations because our names didn’t sit well in their mouths,

We drop endings and accent marks along with our histories,

Learning to conform is our first lesson in history.

 

My mistake was being Latin hyphenated American,

It is the equivalent of both being and learning to be invisible,

The struggle of planting duality in my rich Latin soil and only sprouting an American flower.

The grass is greener on the other side because that’s the only side that gets watered.

 

My grandma apologizes when approaching anybody,

“I’m sorry” is the only phrase that rolls off her tongue with ease.

She wears shame and humiliation with every word of broken English she utters,

As if we haven’t spent our time on this land learning to talk through clenched jaws.

 

They sell us freedom, and the price tag is maneuvering out of the shackles on our tongue,

The nooses around our necks, the cuffs sitting on our wrists.

Opportunity: we are welcome to innovate and create ideas,

Just not allowed to take credit for them.

We watch in silence, como la flor,

As our culture is sewn into statements we’re forbidden to make.

 

I am not Latin hyphenated American,

I am a Latina who is proving to America that we do not owe them room and board,

We are not here to melt into their pot,

We are here to allow them to get a taste of ours. 

This poem is about: 
Me
My family
My community
My country

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