Mi Problema by Michele Serros

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   i Problema y Michele Serros My sincerity isn’t good enough   Eyebrows raise when I request:   “ Hable mas despacio, por favor ” My skin is brown    just like theirs, but now I’m unworthy of the color   ‘cause I don’t speak Spanish the way I should   Then they laugh and talk about   mi problema   in the language I stumble over   A white person gets encouragement, praise, for weak attempts at a second language   “Maybe he wants to be brown like us” and that is good   My earnest attempts   make me look bad, dumb   “Perhaps she wanted to be white like THEM” and that is bad   I keep my flash cards hidden a practice cassette tape not labeled ‘cause I am ashamed   I “should know better” they tell me Spanish is in your blood   I search for SSL classes, (Spanish as a Second Language)   in college catalogs and practice with my grandma   who gives me patience, permission to learn   And then one day, I’ll be a perfected “r” rolling tilde using Spanish speaker   A true Mexican at last! From Chicana Falsa and other stories of death, identity, and Oxnard by Michele Serros