by Gustavo Barahona-López
En español, love has gradations. Te quiero pero no te amo, says a teenage boy trying to have it both ways.
La güera is your light-skinned prima.
El gringo is that white man
who mispronounces two phrases in español
and expects to be praised like he recited
a García Lorca poem by heart.
Mojado is an immigrant who survives
coyotes, la migra y ese maldito río.
Deserves a towel, chocolate and a fireplace
to take the chill from the bones.
Aunque ahora es el desierto que toma
el agua, la piel y los sueños de los migrantes.
Cuando se me caía la mollera, the curandera
did not massage me, me sobaba.
She would draw espiritus from me with an egg,
rub the huevo against me like an elegy to syncretism,
to Purépecha gods I can never pray to
because I do not know their names.
The times my monolingual father called me a pendejo,
it hurt worse than all the English curse words
I learned in elementary school combined.
When the word pendejo leaves the lips of my papá,
it means I am a failure y nunca seré nada.
¿Cómo se dice therapy en español?
I no longer dream in Spanish.
My nightmares are in English.
But when I cry o doy mi corazón,
lo hago en two different tongues.
GUSTAVO BARAHONA-LÓPEZ is a poet and educator from the San Francisco Bay Area. In his writing, Barahona-López draws from his experience growing up in a Mexican immigrant household. His work can be found or is forthcoming in PALABRITAS, Cutthroat journal, Puerto del Sol, The Acentos Review, among other publications. When Barahona-López is not teaching you can find him re-discovering the world with his son.