Wise Poets – Richard Blanco – My Father In English

Richard Blanco (February 15, 1968 -)

First half of his life lived in Spanish: the long syntax
of *las montañas* that lined his village, the rhyme
of *sol* with his soul—a Cuban *alma*—that swayed
with *las palmas*, the sharp rhythm of his *machete*
cutting through *caña*, the syllables of his *canarios*
that sung into *la brisa* of the island home he left
to spell out the second half of his life in English—
the vernacular of New York City sleet, neon, glass—
and the brick factory where he learned to polish
steel twelve hours a day. Enough to save enough
to buy a used Spanish-English dictionary he kept
bedside like a bible—studied fifteen new words
after his prayers each night, then practiced them
on us the next day: *Buenos días, indeed, my family.*
*Indeed más coffee. Have a good day today, indeed*—
and again in the evening: *Gracias to my bella wife,*
*indeed, for dinner*. *Hicistes tu homework, indeed*?
*La vida is indeed difícil*. Indeed did indeed become
his favorite word, which, like the rest of his new life,
he never quite grasped: overused and misused often
to my embarrassment. Yet the word I most learned
to love and know him through: *indeed*, the exile who
tried to master the language he chose to master him,
*indeed*, the husband who refused to say *I love you*
in English to my mother, the man who died without
true translation. *Indeed*, meaning: in fact/*en efecto*,
meaning: in reality/*de hecho*, meaning to say now
what I always meant to tell him in both languages:
thank you/*gracias* for surrendering the past tense
of your life so that I might conjugate myself here
in the present of this country, in truth/*así es, indeed*.