Passing On by Julia Alvarez:
Emily in one hand, Walt in the other
that’s how I learned my craft, struggling
to navigate my own way between them
and get to where I wanted to end up:
some place dead center in the human heart.
I’ve had an odyssey with both along:
Emily with her slant sense of directions;
and rowdy Walt, so loud and in my face,
I’ve had to stuff his mouth with leaves of grass
at times to hear my own son of myself!
such mixtures are my fortre after all,
Since I prefer the hyphenated voice,
a little of this, a little of that,
my tías gossiping while rolling dough ,
my mother malapropping her clichés
(Don’t try to judge a forest by its leaves),
Gladys intoning her sad boleros
as she aweeps out the house of the childhoood,
Milagros with her sausy salsa songs,
my grandmother telling her rosary beads.
And most of these voices not in English,
some in Spanish, and some in that first tongue
when all I knew was heartbeat and the hum
of Mami’s murmuring blood becoming mine.
And now this mix of voices sails out-
a Tower of Babel crammed into Noah’s ark-
into the future silences beyond
where can I go and where those yet unborn
might read waht’s left of me, this voice
I now pass on, my own , and not my own.