JOSE HERNANDEZ DIAZ
My father tells me we need to stop speaking Spanish.
He says my Spanish is trash and we should focus on English.
He says a doctor told him the problem with my Bi-Polar
Is due to the fact that English-only was not enforced in our home.
I know my dad. No doctor told him that. He uses imaginary
Conversations with doctors to legitimatize his points.
I tell my dad his English isn’t perfect, either. Better than your Spanish,
He says. I laugh and laugh, but inside I am angry and hurt,
Yet, I know my dad has a point and at the same time doesn’t.
He wants stability, not broken languages which lead to broken homes.
I feel like telling him, we come from broken people who build
Themselves up. I feel like telling him the brokenness in my Spanish,
Like the brokenness in his English, is part of who we are,
Like it or not. Sure, we can try to improve it, but we have
Nothing to prove. I feel like telling my father all of this,
But, instead, I put the Laker game on louder: what’s the score, anyway?
This piece was written following a similar discussion with my father regarding his preference that we only speak English in our family because our (my siblings’ and my) Spanish is “broken.” The brokenness is also symbolic of our broken culture being first-generation Mexican Americans growing up in Southern California. Altogether, I’ve learned to tolerate or even embrace moments of feeling incomplete, split, shattered, or otherwise broken because of the dual and sometimes multifaceted nature of existence.
Jose Hernandez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Fellow. He is the author of The Fire Eater (Texas Review Press, 2020). His work appears in The American Poetry Review, Georgia Review, Iowa Review, The Nation, Poetry, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He has been a finalist at the Andrés Montoya Prize, Colorado Prize, and The National Poetry Series. Currently, he is an Associate Editor at Frontier Poetry and a Guest Editor at Palette Poetry.