This is the first installment of “Sabiduría: Words of Wisdom,” a collaboration with NPR’s Latino USA, which will feature conversations with established and emerging poets, as well as readings and excerpts of their work. In this interview, Pat Mora talks about missing the sound of Spanish as she migrates across the country, what it means to her to be bilingual, and feeling like she’s playing hooky every time she sits down to write. Mora writes fiction and poetry for both adults and children, as well as non-fiction with focus on education; her latest book is Zing! Seven Creativity Practices for Educators and Students.
Listen to Mora read “Immigrants,” “La Migra,” and “Ode to Names.”
Mouths full of laughter,
the turistas come to the tall hotel
with suitcases full of dollars.
Every morning my brother makes
the cool beach new for them.
With a wooden board he smooths
away all footprints.
I peek through the cactus fence
and watch the women rub oil
sweeter than honey into their arms and legs
while their children jump waves
or sip drinks from long straws,
coconut white, mango yellow.
Once my little sister
ran barefoot across the hot sand
for a taste.
My mother roared like the ocean,
“No. No. It’s their beach.
It’s their beach.”
able to slip from “How’s life?”
to “Me’stan volviendo loca,”
able to sit in a paneled office
drafting memos in smooth English,
able to order in a fluent Spanish
at a Mexican restaurant,
American but hyphenated,
viewed by Anglos as perhaps exotic,
perhaps inferior, definitely different,
perhaps inferior, definitely different, (their eyes say, “You may speak Spanish but you’re not like me”
an American to Mexicans
a Mexican to Americans. . .
— “Legal Alien,” (Chants)