Why can’t my tongue become one with my teeth?

a poem by Sally Familia

When I found out I was moving to America,

I bought a jean jacket.

It was the beginning of December

and New York winters would

bring more than those denim sleeves could handle.

New York City

would give me more than I could handle.

Slushie pavements and Christmas Salsa littered the air.

Washington Heights.

A place I never thought I’d call my home,

te suplico, don’t let me fall, I begged on my knees the first

night. Folded over on our new bunk bed, fetal position.

Who knows Spanish in America?

Who will understand the words that won’t leave my mouth?

Miscommunication, no deliberation when the language doesn’t exist

in the library I’ve become accustomed to.

I remember having just turned six years old and practicing

English beneath my mango tree.

I remember the way English felt in my mouth,

like Sugar Daddies.

You know?

When the stringy caramel wraps itself around your teeth

like a kindergartener who clings on to her father on her first day away

and it doesn’t let go and you try to chew it off, the sugar daddy,

not the kindergartener,

but it stays, stuck. The words unmoved. Sticky and unrefined.

I still gnaw on it ferociously the way my aunt does on carne asada.

I still consider the mess I create with my syntax but I sit back and observe

the explosion my vernacular makes.

Don’t forget to stop by the GUA Shop