9 to 5 Poetry Project, Poem 13: Hablo Un Poco

Hello hello, internet people! It’s hard to believe we’re already at (un)lucky number 13 in the 9 to 5 Poetry Project, but here we are! Thank you for following along with me as I flex my poetry muscles with the serious, the rant-like, and even the “trying to be deep.” Hopefully you’re getting at least 1/4 as much out of this project as I am.

Poem number 13 is ready for your eyeballs!

Hablo Un Poco

Mi cabeza goes into Spanish Mode,
When I hear customers speak
To one another in the checkout line.
Even three years after my last clase,
My inner voice clings to the notion
Of a second language, once used in Spain
To get “algo para duele en mi cabeza”.
What I was so proud of then, in foreign
Territory becomes awkward in my own.
The anxiety that precedes every spoken word
Ramp dizzily into double time when las palabras
Aren’t native to my mind or tongue.

A man’s face lights up when, to his “thank you”
I reply “De nada.” The tiny effort pleases him,
But embarrasses me. My cheeks flush crimson
In a heat that will linger as long as the thoughts
En Español. To an older woman whose translator
Has walked away, I give a shame-faced whisper—
“Quiere esos tambien, si?”
She smiles and begins to speak, as comfortable
In her native language as I want to be in mine.
Distracted by scanning a ticket, I can only respond
“Si, hablo Español… un poco.”

Note: Every now and again, I like to try out a little Spanish on customers, especially when it will help smooth things along with a family that doesn’t speak much English. But I don’t do it often, because it really makes me uncomfortable, and today I was thinking about how strange it is that I get more embarrassed speaking Spanish to customers here in the states than I ever did when I was actually in Spain. That evolved into thinking about my trouble speaking aloud in general, and it became this poem. Hopefully the little bits of Spanish aren’t too hard to figure out. This is the internet, after all, so Google translate is right there to give you the gist.

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