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.


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