May 2016 - Comments Off

Julia Herrera

A Brief History of How My Tongue Was Shaped

It was 1956 when my grandmother, Momo, was sent to the U.S. She was a light-skinned princess from San Salvador sent to Poplarville to learn English. Momo met Donothan O. Byrd at the community college. They played cards and traded cigarettes in the cafeteria. He was a Mississippi boy born and bred. He fought for our country. She talked funny, but she had light skin. She wasn't black. They married in '57.

It was 1980 when my first cousin twice removed made it out alive. It was the Salvadoran Civil War. He, Manuel (we call him Meme) was meeting with his comrades. He was a socialist. He was with the FMLN. They all worked inside. They had eyes and ears. They met in secret. It was 1980. He left the meeting early to check on his baby boy, Manuel (we call him Memine). His comrades, even Quique (especially Quique), were taken. They were shot and mutilated. Twelve bullets per body and an arm too. An old-fashioned roadside assassination. Meme, he made it out alive. It was 1980.

It was 1992 when Rodney King was taken out of his car and beaten to the ground. It was 1992 when Los Angeles caught fire. Mom, Anita with her light skin and chestnut hair, and Dad, Hector with his brown skin and Mexican tongue, held Diego, their baby boy with dark hair and olive skin, close to their chests. They wouldn't leave the apartment's walls. Mom had forbidden Dad from going out after that bigot yelled, "Go back to your country!" at his brown skin. It was 1992 when the rooftops fired their rounds.

It's 2015 on Día de los Muertos. I, Julia -- daughter of Hector and Anita, sister of Diego -- have a white face and auburn hair. Nobody here knows how my tongue was shaped. Nobody knows about '57 or '80. Some know of '92. It's 2015, and I have no chocolate for my pan de muerto.

Kiss and Tell

We say we won’t
kiss and tell tall
tales we’re wont to miss
the sick we picked
parted mouths and pricked
our tongues totally tattered
trace sores with our tri-
linguals lapping to taste
the buds we bore
each other bare to bone
on the floor we chose
a terrific tongue lashing
a tidal wave, heavy-
weight title to tell all

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