Oh say can you see
Miguel wants to learn the Star-Spangled Banner.
Miguel was the last fourth grader to migrate
into my English as a second language course,
and is the first to raise his hand for every question.
But Miguel views letters in a different way than most.
Because there are a lot of words in Spanish
that do not exist in English,
he learns how to pack them in a suitcase and forget.
Because many phrases translate backwards
when crossing over from Spanish to English,
throughout the whole song,
he tends to say things in the wrong order.
So when I ask him to sing the second verse,
it sounds like
And the rocket's red glare
We watched our home
Bursting in air
It gave proof to the night
that the flag was still theirs
They say music is deeply intertwined with how we remember.
Miguel hears the marimba and learns the word home,
hears his mother's accent being mocked and learns the words shame,
hears his mother's weeping and learns the word sacrifice.
He asks, what does the word America mean?
What does the word dream mean?
I say two words with the same meaning are what we call synonyms.
You could say America is a dream,
something we all feel silly for believing in.
He says, teach me.
Teach me how to say bandera.
Teach me how to say star.
Teach me how to hide my country behind the consonants
that do not get pronounced.
teach the letters to just flee from my lips like my parents,
and build a word out of nothing.
In my tongue, we do not pronounce the letter H.
Home is not a sound my voice knows how to make.
It's strange what our memories hold on to.
It's strange what makes it over the border
to the left side of the brain,
what our minds do not let us forget,
how an accent is just a mother tongue
that refuses to let her child go.
The language barrier is a 74 mile wall
lodged in the back of Miguel's throat,
the bodies of words so easily lost in the translation.
Oh, say for whom does that
star-spangled banner yet wave
Give back the land to the brave
and let us make a home for us free.
Education & Learning
Intersectionality & Culture
Music & Sports
an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference
a figure of speech in which words repeat at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences
a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic