Cómo Se Dice

by The Cowl Editor on September 17, 2020


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Photo courtesy of pexels.com

by Mariela Flores ’23

Today my Spanish was more broken than my English.
The words did not fit in my mouth.
Between every attempt was the phrase cómo se dice.  

The two oceans inside me clashed,
two lives being forced to merge into one coexisting life form.
My palms were sweaty as the round vowels of the language I love began to slip
in between the gap in my front teeth, and I could not bite down fast enough.   

The words felt heavy,
sitting in the back of my throat, begging to be let out,
I just could not remember how.  

It was betrayal.
My tongue was left bruised.
Beaten time and time again with consonants that are too loud.
I had spent so many years whipping it into shape
using words to mask the slight lilt of an accent. 

English was supposed to be my savior.
Instead, like any colonizer, it set up camp and did not leave.
It took things from me I did not realize I had to miss. 

There are cracks in my Spanish I am desperate to fill,
so I write songs with the first words I ever heard.
I paint with the colors I see when my mother sings her favorite songs,
and I laugh with the same laugh my father has when he makes a joke.  

I put a band-aid over my Spanish, and I promise them I won’t forget.
My children and their children will know my Spanish the same way I did.
They will fall asleep to the sounds of Mi niña tiene sueño, bendito sea, bendito sea
they will call me mamá in the same little voice I once knew.  

Today my Spanish was more broken than my English.
But tomorrow this too will heal.