This poem first appeared in Poetica Magazine. I am sharing it again in light of Stephen Miller's recent comments on "cosmopolitan" outlooks and the Trump Administration's demand that prospective immigrants be fluent in English.
Language I learned en la escuela primaria,
en una programa bilingüe, language of homework
and a terrifying third grade teacher, language I feared
forgotten after every summer.
Language of nearly none of my ancestors,
except those fleeing Sephardim,
who dispersed in all directions
and, I have read, through all Ashkenazim.
Language once purged, still so Catholic
school seemed parochial by mistake,
as if my native English needn’t be selective,
purged of Jew-you-down and good Christian praise.
Language that feels so American,
not the Russian, the German, the Polish
my grandparents’ parents fled Europe fluent in
and shed, keeping only Yiddish.
Language that confused my English pronunciation,
loosened my accent, further cultivated in me
the seeds of a rootless cosmopolitan,
even here, in the Land of the Free…