Bruises. Tongues, and a Funeral

by Emily Lugos

             At home with my family
             I've been known as the
             klutz Not the tripping
             over shoelaces Or
             dropping pens and
             drinks I'm the stuttering
The kind with words half said
And the sentences somewhat unheard

             I've never been able to be understood
             correctly And I didn't notice this
             Until every rolling "r" in my native
             language Is a table that pops out of
             Every conjugation and Americanized
             vocab word Is a cord, a toy, spilled water
I fall over every single one

             I'm ridiculed by uncles, cousins, and
             friends For the random bruises that
             appear on my Brown skin, they tell
How are you even Mexican if you
can't speak your own language?
             I feel gashes on my chest
             every time This is uttered and
After wrapping my wounds
             I visit my heritage and culture in a
             graveyard Place a flower, kneel on my
And pray for forgiveness

             I always see two lovers every
             time I visit Watch them whisper
             to each  other While visiting their
             own gravesites
I'm not sure what they are mourning for
             But they speak in a language foreign from
             mine Even foreign from each other
             I watch them communicate in smiles and
             touches Hand holding and kisses
             I imagine what their bodies say
             when they're alone together
             Away from culture, from expectations
             Misconstrued family members
             Even though they do not understand each
             other They are in love,
I can tell
I think he wrote her a love poem once


             Etched the words into her palm Pulled her closer
             Until no space was between them Although she couldn't understand
             She knew every word he said

             my mother came to this country
             When she was only seventeen
             The only thing she had was
a written note in her hand
             With a family member's name on it
             She had to find her way here
             Speaking a language that is scorned In all aspects of its form
She fought for 2O years
             To be respected with her accent I think of my mother
Every time I trip over words
             And refrain from family gatherings
             Fear has controlled my tongue
I let the snake of my flag constrict ft
Burrowed myself in the safety of white stars

             The white stars are no longer safe
             For me or for my mother
I visit this gravesite with her
             She speaks to me in her native tongue
             I speak to her in mine
             Sometimes we don't understand each other
             But I think that's okay

As we unbury my culture and upbringing
I tell her, I think I buried it alive
She tells me, No, mija, to hiciste tuyo,
You made It yours

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