Bilingual/Bilingüe

Rhina P. Espaillat

Printer-friendly version

My father liked them separate, one there,

one here (allá y aquí), as if aware

 

that words might cut in two his daughter’s heart

(el corazón) and lock the alien part

 

to what he was—his memory, his name

(su nombre)—with a key he could not claim.

 

“English outside this door, Spanish inside,”

he said, “y basta.” But who can divide

 

the world, the word (mundo y palabra) from

any child? I knew how to be dumb

 

and stubborn (testaruda); late, in bed,

I hoarded secret syllables I read

 

until my tongue (mi lengua) learned to run

where his stumbled. And still the heart was one.

 

I like to think he knew that, even when,

proud (orgulloso) of his daughter’s pen,

 

he stood outside mis versos, half in fear

of words he loved but wanted not to hear.

Rhina P. Espaillat, "Bilingual/Bilingüe" from Where Horizons Go (Kirksville, MO: New Odyssey Books, 1998). Used by permission of the author.

Source: Where Horizons Go (New Odyssey Press, 1998)