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.
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.
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.
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