WHY MY BROTHER REFUSES TO SPEAK SPANISH WHEN MY MOM SAYS TE AMO
Because I don’t want to,
cold and hard like water from the spigot
in our abuela’s bathroom
If you want it warm,
you’ll have to heat it on the stove.
I stare at his eyes that remind me
of la cancha when it rains,
our cleats biting into mud
with every dash, our whoops and hollers
swallowed by the thunder above.
Heaven’s a lively bunch.
I dig through the brown,
hoping to pick a truth from beneath
my nails, one that doesn’t crumble
in the heat of the afternoon
or dry with the ring of salt around my neck.
I wonder if, Because I don’t want to, translates
to another language, if it sounds more true.
I wonder if it means
Because I don’t want to be Latino
or because I don’t want to be afraid
or because I don’t want to feel shame
for failing my mother’s tongue, its sharp consonants
pricking my own, the blood spilling with every vowel
until my ancestors surround me, ponder
my face and ripple into silence when they fail
to see their own.
What if I am to be my mother’s son by birth alone.
If, soy un catracho will be a phrase that always struggles
to leave this mouth. ¿Who will water la tierra
con su sangre, alimentar a los niños her bones,
if not me? Because I want to
say, I love you, in more than one way.
In the end, my brother leaves before we can conclude,
and I am stranded in this room with these words, struggling
to swallow every curve and edge. My mother calls out
to me, asks what’s wrong, her voice so foreign and sweet—
like our time in Yoro, when she sliced mangos onto a plate
and handed them to me without my asking
amidst the burgeoning bodies of family bursting through the door,
as if to ask that I end this war, let its remains drip down my chin.
Mi cielo, the ants will devour what’s left.
I chew the memory between my lips and meet her concern
with silence. I want to tell her
everything, but I don’t know how to say it.
previously published in Puerto del Sol