Mami sits in the kitchen 

surrounded by dirty dishes

pen in hand

she traces the alphabet

her goal is to one day be able to make words



letters don’t sound the same on this side



She wants us to talk to her in english

we turn on the tv 

watch movies 

as she tries to make out the sounds into words she can understand

“¿Que dijo?”

We get mad 

 ask her to let us watch without buggin’ 



            Why does she want to be American so bad?




Mami goes to school at nights

after step dad comes home from work

she leaves food warm on the stove

walks 5 blocks

sits in a metal chair

allows her tongue to dance with new sounds


She has a notebook filled with words

Cat. Dog. Red. Blue. House. Sky. 

after she is done cleaning she sits

and turns the pages


“¿Gordo, como se escribe, excuse me?” 



Mami can bug so much sometimes


        Why does she want to speak stupid English? 



“I Love You” she writes in a birthday card

her crocked handwriting let’s me know how much effort she placed into the words

a 20 dollar bill neatly folded into the card



“Un dia voy hablar ingles como tu.”

Mami has dreams but she also has us

and with us comes obligations and less time for herself



She comes home with a certificate in hand

“Congratulations on the completion of English 1” 

doesn’t tell anyone

simply places a magnet over it and leaves it on the fridge


Afterschool we run home

abruptly open the fridge door

the certificate falls on the floor


        It’s just a piece of paper anyway?


We try to teach her little words

but patience is thin 

and we rather play kickball 


we are kids not teachers or translators



At the local school

they cancel the parent english classes

“No funding,” the superintendent said


Mami is sad

but happy that she has learned enough words to make sentences


She gets a job at Subway

that means less time at the house

more time away from us

more time to herself

more time to make conversations with people that are not bratty kids


She learns 

what tomato, lettuce, onion are


she learns how to pronounce


“Thank you very much, have a nice day.” 


Mami wants to learn english so bad because she wants to be like us but it is not as easy for her

Why Can't she be happy being without translation besides mami doesn't sound the same in English