~For all bilinguals who hide their accents well.
I look like you
But not quite like you
Hiding in plain sight, another me
Waits for the right moment
English is a tennis ball
In a well-matched game
Lobbing back and forth between us
When my phone interrupts our play
Just a second, I say
While I answer my call
Mamá’s voice rings out
And I suddenly morph
Your head turns back, thoughtful
As my inner form appears
A few notches louder than before
My melody soothes you
Your apprehension melts away
As you listen without understanding
I didn’t come to confuse
A bilingual romance
With you I am an English master
A domain I rule
Then, in a second, I’ve switched
That girl is gone
Y ahora estoy aquí
A master of Spanish as well
It’s easy to lose yourself
Under my sonorous spell, isn’t it?
Consonantes crujientes y vocales abiertas
Are tendrils from my tongue
Attracting your ears
To drown in my sensuous sounds
Ni sabes lo que oyes
But you are hypnotized
Looking at me like a trainwreck
You cannot ignore
Solo que aquí
It is a trainwreck inside me
Who is this girl?
Your eyes ask
I say “Adios, Mamá
Te quiero mucho”
And the spell is broken
My English returns with my other me
Whom you recognize slowly
As the me you know
That girl is back
My inner nature veiled once more
You won’t remember
But I’ll never forget
The way your eyes
Saw my other side
Glimpsed at that reality
And didn’t recognize who I was
I smile from inside
Waiting for the next time I’ll appear.
I’m Mexican enough to savor el sabor picosito de los chiles,
but American enough to keep my ears from steaming.
I’m Mexican enough to reirme fuerte y con gusto
but American enough to know when I can and can’t do that.
I’m Mexican enough to feel orgullosa de hablar en español
but American enough to unsheathe my English sword if needed.
I’m Mexican enough to understand los juegos y dramas sociales
but American enough to know I don’t want to be a part of them.
I’m Mexican enough to treat you como si fueras familia,
but American enough to tell you when you’ve pissed me off.
I’m Mexican enough to offer you mi casa con brazos abiertos,
but American enough to expect that you respect it.
I’m Mexican enough to love conviviendo con mis comadres
but American enough to have a blast with my best girlfriends, too.
I’m Mexican enough to be fiercely fiel a mi familia siempre
but American enough to be my own independent person within it.
I’m Mexican enough to want to atender a mi esposo
but American enough to expect the same in return.
I’m Mexican enough to know que quiero ser una madre algún día
but American enough to know that there’s no rush.
I’m Mexican enough to need un lugar que sea mi casa
but American enough to always live in perpetual wanderlust.
I’m Mexican enough to appreciate que trates de entender mi cultura
but American enough to know that you still won’t get it completely.
Unless you’ve lived esta doble vida tú mismo,
you’ll always be one joke, one gesture, one expression behind.
Un saludo in the suburbs
I read in the car outside the house,
patiently waiting in silence
for my sister’s piano lesson to wrap up
You walk across the lawn with flyers in your hands,
wearing faded jeans and a light gray shirt
as you hang your message on the front door
I look up and our eyes meet,
open hands rising in sync together
as we smile and wave our saludo
If my skin were darker,
you might see the paisana in me,
but to you, I’m just another gringa
Living my life, your American dream
in a suburb you prune and mow
so your kids won’t have to
So they might live here one day,
and their children can learn
musical melodies like my sister
I wish you and your family lo mejor
because that’s all I can do
Eloísa Pérez-Lozano grew up bilingual and bicultural in Houston, Texas. She graduated from Iowa State University with her M.S. in journalism and mass communication and her B.S. in psychology. Her poetry has been featured or is forthcoming in The Texas Observer, aaduna, Diverse Voices Quarterly, The Acentos Review, The Ofi Press, and VONA’s Voices Against Racial Injustice: An Arts Forum, among others.
[“Mutant” was first published by The Ofi Press. “Un Saludo in the Suburbs” was first published online at VONA’s Voices Against Racial Injustice: An Arts Forum.]