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Why My Brother Refuses to Speak Spanish When My Mom Says Te Amo - Daren Colbert

Because I don’t want to,

cold and hard like water from the spigot in our abuela’s bathroom

every morning.

If you want it warm,

you’ll have to heat it on the stove.

I stare at his eyes that remind me

of la cancha when it rains, our cleats biting into mud

with every dash, our whoops and hollers

swallowed by the thunder above.

Heaven’s a lively bunch.

I dig through the brown,

hoping to pick a truth from beneath

my nails, one that doesn’t crumble

in the heat of the afternoon

or dry with the ring of salt around my neck.

I wonder if, Because I don’t want to, translates

to another language, if it sounds more true.

I wonder if it means

Because I don’t want to be Latino

or because I don’t want to be afraid

or because I don’t want to feel shame

for failing my mother’s tongue, its sharp consonants

pricking my own, the blood spilling with every vowel

until my ancestors surround me, ponder

my face and ripple into silence when they fail

to see their own.

What if I am to be my mother’s son by birth alone.

If, soy un catracho will be a phrase that always struggles

to leave this mouth. ¿Who will water la tierra

con su sangre, alimentar a los niños her bones,

if not me? Because I want to

say, I love you, in more than one way.

In the end, my brother leaves before we can conclude,

and I am stranded in this room with these words, struggling

to swallow every curve and edge. My mother calls out

to me, asks what’s wrong, her voice so foreign and sweet—

like our time in Yoro, when she sliced mangos onto a plate

and handed them to me without my asking

amidst the burgeoning bodies of family bursting through the door,

as if to ask that I end this war, let its remains drip down my chin.

Mi cielo, the ants will devour what’s left.

I chew the memory between my lips and meet her concern

with silence. I want to tell her

everything, but I don’t know how to say it.


DAREN COLBERT is a writer and filmmaker from Missouri who's just trying to do his best. When he's not writing or making films, you can find him napping or watching a movie. Sometimes both. Okay, usually both. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Ghost Girls Zine, The Hyacinth Review, Moon City Review, Puerto del Sol, and elsewhere. He's on a quest for the perfect mango, so if you have any information that could help, please let him know.

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