Thursday Poem

We Talk About Spanish

Not in Spanish
Dream with dictionaries
Marrying out to whites
Damn good black beans
But so what?
Damn good politics
But so what?
Oh there were times
like in the orange groves
Outside Phoenix
My task was to mark charts
To ask the Guatemaltecas
When was your last period?
And so on as they lined up
To see a doctor in a trailer
And there was that night
In Harvard Yard
When a North Vietnamese
Soldier-poet tested
Spanish he learned in Cuba
It worked
We found a third way
His voice a high-wire
I crossed over to him
Fearless as a spider
If we didn’t know a word
We filled in the blank
With a star
It was a light
That years later
I try not to curse

by Demetria Martinez
El Coro
University of Massachusetts Press, 1997