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From “Night Up North”

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My mother spoke perfectly well, and I understood.
Fabi andá faser los deber, and I’d do my chores.
Fabi traseme meio litro de leite, I brought her half a liter of milk.
Desí pra doña Cora que amañá le pago —
I told Doña Cora she’d get paid tomorrow.
Deya iso gurí — stop that, child — and I would stop.

But my teacher didn’t understand.
She’d send home letters in my notebook
all in red, like her face, and signed at the bottom.

But my mother didn’t understand.
Le iso pra mim, ijo, and I’d read them to her.

But my mother didn’t understand.
Qué fiseste meu fío — what did you do, child — 
te dise a que portaras bien, and I did behave myself.

The story repeated itself for months.
My teacher wrote, but my mother didn’t understand.
My teacher wrote, but my mother didn’t understand.

Then one day my mother understood.
She said, Meu fío, tu terás que deiyá la iscuela — 
so I quit that school.
 
Translated from the Portuñol 

Source: Poetry (July/August 2016)

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This poem originally appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of Poetry magazine

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From “Night Up North”

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