In New Jersey, Mamita watched
All My Children. Stones
in her mouth, rolling her tongue against cold words in English.
Spanish is my mother. My father invokes English.
My feet danced in Spanish, my chains broke in English.
I was twelve when we moved to Guayaquil. Immersed
in a mikvah of language, to break my yoke of English.
A key. A cipher. A tuning fork tongue. I become
a window in Spanish, a muscle in English.
Sometimes in Ecuador, I’d pretend to not understand.
Haciendome la gringa that only spoke in English.
I raise my hand in class, my biología teacher laughs.
Makes fun of my accent, but he chokes in English.
Mis gacelas are the unparsed dichos in Spanish
painting pictures there are no colors for in English.
Time couldn’t erase my accent, the one that betrays me
that sounds like my father. I cry for the tongue cloaked in English.
Married at 27, at a Christmas party in the U.S., my new
in-laws complimented me on how well I spoke in English.
I’ve been practicing since birth, was my astonished reply.
But Lupita isn’t a word that can be translated in English.
from Rattle #71, Spring 2021
Lupita Eyde-Tucker: “My father taught English at the Catholic University in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where my mother was his student. They married, and I was born in New Jersey. When I was 12, my family moved to Guayaquil. The word gacela in Spanish means gazelle, but it also means ghazal. I love the idea of making linguistic leaps, especially in poetry.” ( web)