Carnegie Mellon University

"some assembly required" by Javier Spivey

Third Place for College Poetry

my Abuela’s spanish is quiet but loud with intention
it has that perfect comprehension of life with that wariness of death
and it’s thick with the breath of viejo san juan down its neck
best believe it kept my mother in check
cuz Mamí’s spanish is the creation of the new nuyorican nation
the 1970’s formation sung by boleros on each station
tainos knew no lions until these women roared
heard from los calles de cupey to lex and 103rd

my spanish requires assembly
palabra puzzle pieces thwarted by toddler teeth marks on their corners
can’t fit when they’ve been constantly chewed by caucasian mispronunciations
of my name culture and persuasion

ms. ellis in the pre-k
roll call on the first day
ja-vee-air or ha-vee-ay
to shy to speak up
Javier that’s my name
anglicized by twenty-six year old ellis and her disciples
tyrannical tykes with whitewashed pictures books as their bibles
jack was adventurous, phillip was charming
but in ‘01 at 8:05 am my name was too alarming

syllables were stock to exchange in the morning
monikers meant cash for little white boys only
no bit-sized buyers wanted ha-vee or ha-vee-air, too many too exotic
but i woulda gone broke to be a max, tom, or dick

so Abuela and Mamí, i never intended to lose who i was
but i was sick of no one understanding:
perdona me, jota’s like an h, this ain’t no french
cuz i just wanted to uphold the hold on our third generation of american education
and the missing puzzle piece seemed to be assimilation

MIRA, when my accent faded and i waded out of spanglish shallows into the hallowed river of gentrification, leading to the mouth of the melting pot flowing into the ocean birthing our nation,

i realized rita moreno lied. ain’t no small fee to be free in america. there’s been a cost that can’t be paid by any ancestor’s loss, a cost mi gente sees everytime we turn on the tv and are reminded that the only way to make the great america what it used to be is to take any foreign flavoring out of its rice and beans y Mamí y Abuela i know you know that this man ain’t the first to tell us we have to go. it’s not just six year old toms and aged politicians building the partitions between nations and our coexisting visions, so what do i do when my broken spanish is

the last of my ammunition?


con pacienca y fe help me put it back together
for once i realize our pride, i’ll know no oppressor

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