my mom holds her accent like a shotgun,
with two good hands.
her tongue, all brass knuckle
slipping in between her lips
her hips, all laughter and wind clap.
she speaks a sanchocho of spanish and english,
pushing up against one another,
in rapid fire
there is no telling my mama to be “quiet,”
she don’t know “quiet.”
her voice is one size better fit all
and you best not tell her to hush,
she waited too many years for her voice to arrive
to be told it needed housekeeping.
English sits her her mouth remixed
so “strawberry” becomes “ehstrawbeddy”
and “cookie” becomes “ehcookie”
and kitchen, key chain, and chicken all sound the same.
my mama doesn’t say “yes” she says “ah ha”
and suddenly the sky in her mouth becomes a Hector Lavoe song.
her tongue can’t lay itself down flat enough
for the English language,
it got too much hip
too much bone
too much conga
too much cuatro
to two step
got too many piano keys
in between her teeth,
it got too much clave
too much hand clap
got too much salsa to sit still
it be an anxious child wanting to
make PlayDoh out of concrete English
be too neat for her kind of wonderful.
her words spill in conversation
between women whose hands are all they got
sometimes our hands are all we got
and accents remind us that we are still
bomba, still plena
say “wepa” and a stranger becomes your hermano.
say “dale” and a crowd becomes your family reunion.
my mama’s tongue is a telegram from her mother
decorated with the coqui’s of el campo.
so even though her lips can barely stretch themselves around english,
her accent is a stubborn compass always pointing her toward home.