Cruzando My Own River

by | Apr 1, 2020

Soy hijo de un Indio Chichimeca y una mujer
tan blanca que people mistook her for a gringa.
My skin es el color de café con leche.
Mis padres cruzaron el Rio en 1920.
Nací en Nortecora, en un pueblo called Grafton,
 
not far from Canada, near where mi familia
worked en las labores de betabel. Pasé mucha
de mi niñez en el norte but most of the year
I was back en Tejas, en Cristal, a town claiming
to be the spinach capital del mundo.
 
Mi primera lengua fue Español. I learned
las a-e-i-o-u en la escuelita de Doña Herminia
and the next year I entered public school.
Mi primera maestra fue Mrs. Tinsley.
We called her mis tilingis, my genitals.
 
She taught us useful English words, like,
“May I go to the biscuse” when needing to pee.
Poco a poco, I absorbed más inglés,
and I learned to love libros in that language,
starting with Wilder’s “Little House” books
 
and moving to Steinbeck, Roth and Rand
(yes, I was a pinche right-winger for a while).
Throughout todo esto, my thoughts were still
in Spanish. Y mis sueños también. Then,
un día, years after I left home for college,
 
I noticed something strange had happened:
I had crossed my own river. My dreams
and thoughts were no longer in Spanish.
Perhaps I should celebrate that day as the day
I became an American. Somehow, though,
 
I wish I had offered some resistance,
put up a fight. Today, the only Spanish
I speak is in my book club, where I feel
inadequate, or when visiting family,
but that’s mostly en maldito Spanglish.

Fall/Winter 2019-2020Volume XIX, Number 2

Juan Palomo is a Houston-based poet, artist and former journalist.

 

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