Thursday, March 1, 2012

English Only, 1959

           English Only, 1959
            (Lengua Madre)
                          jj méndez
Native Tex-Mex child, you tried so hard to
Keep her a secret when you stepped into the rank
And file of the yellow wood board schoolhouse
                    (Where “No Spanish” was the rule)

For so long you kept her
Hidden in the chambers
Of your throbbing throat where she
Laid en silencio like a dormant spore.

Every now and then she would
Grab and interject your English Only
Vocal chords and sound off in lively tones
Of chiles en vinagre --rich with flavor, filled with fire!
                    (Well worth the five slashes on your hands)

She hissed like Quetzalcoatl yearning to be
Recognized and swelled like a peacock
Dressed in emerald feathers… flaunting
Her brilliant ancient roots of jade obsidian
Daggers and carmine Spanish banners…
                      (Royal symbols of your mestizaje)

Your wise mamá would advise:  M’ijo, recuerda,
 Somos gente de razón.   Out there, you must
Do what it takes to get your thoughts across
¡Pero en esta casa, cristiano se habla y ya!

And today…
In spite of the chronic hatred and resentment,
Your lengua madre still oscillates inside
Of you –Aquí, dentro de tu corazón, and blooms
Beside with you –embolden and self-assured

I wonder now…
What would you be without your mother tongue today?
One more drop of blood in the melting pot?
I think not.  You are what you are
Meant to be
                And you can thank your mamá for your Lengua Madre.

© 2012  jjméndez  
Painting by Violeta Rendón, 2012
Restaurant sign posted in San Antonio, Texas in the the early 1960's

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