José Angel Araguz is a CantoMundo fellow and a PhD candidate in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Cincinnati. Author of six chapbooks and the book Everything We Think We Hear, he runs the blog The Friday Influence. His second book, Small Fires, is forthcoming from FutureCycle Press.
Speaking Spanish on the Streets of NYC
after Pedro Miguel Obligado
I want to believe they are not speaking Spanish,
this mother and son so much like the mother and son
in photographs back in Texas, but they are. I want to believe
this boy has lost no father, this mother never had to explain
being broke nor how bodies break, that they speak
only sunlight, speak held hands, speak city traffic,
speak flags of many countries. I want to believe they are not
filled with the same words in which I lost my father,
words my mother cried through later, explaining
about a man she left and how she'd never leave me,
the same words shuffled out as I explained I had to leave —
words moving the air between us, words holding
over the miles, words letting through all we mean
to each other — I want to believe, but know they speak
in the same words I have to keep to myself,
words mumbled in the park, taking the shape of
Mi vida es una rama que, a tu paso, deshojas;
I know the words they speak, but not what the words mean
between the stranger I am now and this mother and son.
The first draft of this poem came during my time going to school in New York City. I worked at a coffee shop in Grand Central Station during the morning, with classes mainly in the evening, which meant I had whole swaths of hours to walk around exhausted. I even almost passed out while standing on the subway; had a man grab the strap of my satchel and pull me straight up while his son looked on, asking: What's wrong with that man? I mention all this because this particular poem takes me back to being lost in myself, in the city, and the scraps of meaning that I would find in passing conversations and random acts of kindness.
Glass: A Journal of Poetry is published monthly by Glass Poetry Press.
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