How My Father Learned English by Juan J. Morales

Cover by Oswaldo Guayasmin

This next Poetry Pick is pulled from Juan Morales’ book of poems “FRIDAY and the Year That Followed,” winner of the 2005 Rhea & Seymour Gorsline Poetry Competition.

HOW MY FATHER LEARNED ENGLISH
382nd Hospital, Japan 1952

The wounded who could not speak English
congregated around the bedridden every morning.
Manuel, the nurse from some other ward,
taught my father and others English
word by word. Sometimes, phrases, the sloppy
repeated English made sense — Because es porque.
Yo soy es I am.  I am.  Otra vez, diganme.–
Bee cause.  Pain.  I am in pain.

English moved my father’s tongue unlike Spanish.
It stuck in his mouth, stumbled past his teeth.
He dreamed he forgot Spanish and his tongue
withered away.  My father never told anyone
about this or the scratching fear of his legs,
under bandages and scars, never walking again.
He didn’t have words in English yet.

From its initial lines to its closing stanza, Morales’ book of poems are nothing short of compelling. Sometimes surreal, other times magical, these poems evoke moods akin to the visual art of Frida Kahlo. It is a staple for any lover of the arts.

Juan J. Morales is currently the Director of Creative Writing  and Assistant Professor at Colorado State University-Pueblo. He is curator of the Southern Colorado Reading Series as wells as the student literary magazine, Tempered Steel.

“Friday and the Year That Followed” (ISBN 9780977197354) is available for purchase at Amazon

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