by Híl Davis
My mother hides her accent
each time someone asks why she is here,
and what made her leave paradise.
To Americans, paradise is anything
you cannot buy
in the supermarket.
For many of us,
our hometowns are lovers
you find by accident, who do not understand
how heavy their hands get. Whose love is missed
only because of how good they crash
the green innocence of unripe coconuts
against a wall to provide
the backs of our throats with a cool stickiness.
… and all my mother can say
about being in this country is,
I have raised my children here.
I am the reason she bleaches her speech.
Her face bloats any time I speak our language. Smirks
proudly at how quick I change it
for family who think
education is linked solely to the mouth.
We dodge our tongues like
our first lover’s homes.
Fly far from it in hopes that it will not claim
our throats like phlegm
that drags after the suck of unripe fruit.
We try to escape our speech
like it never filled our bellies
with plantain, like it never taught us
how to crust a wound with the sun.
Híl Davis is a first generation Costa Rican American from Staten Island, New York. She earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from New York University. Her work has been featured in Callaloo, The Offing, and elsewhere. She is currently based in Seattle, WA (Duwamish Land), where she lives with her family.
This poem previously appeared in Cordella Magazine.