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Eloisa Amezcua shares her poem "Teaching My Mother English over the Phone".

Brought to you by Complexly, The Poetry Foundation, and poet Paige Lewis. Learn more: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/

Eloisa Amezcua:
http://www.eloisaamezcua.com/
https://twitter.com/Eloisa_Amezcua

Poem:
Read from: From the Inside Quietly, published by Sundress Publications
https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780692955482

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My parents moved to the US in 1985 and my mom's been living here for a really long time but every couple of years she'll take an English class.

She would call me and ask for help with her homework, and having to explain these things to my mom really made me consider language and the way we come to language and come to understand it.

Teaching My Mother English over the Phone

I try to explain the difference      between pant and pants
why the former isn't simply     one pair

but what the lungs do     with fear or excitement
why clothe isn't a singular noun

but what most do the body            each morning
she calls on a Wednesday           needs help

with an assignment              for her third English
beginners course where she meets                twice a week

her classmates from countries            with names beautiful as hers
I try to make the language             clear to my mother

as she one day            --before my English took hold--
explained to me that                       I did not in fact make friends

                   with a girl named Sorry

         but we were on the playground and she hit me, fue accidente,
         y me dijo "I'm sorry" and when someone says I am, you soy--


that's not how this works I remind her

when she asks              if the plural of dust is dusts
she asks me to conjugate                    love

I love you                   love he loves     she loved
we loved you              have loved        I am loving

she wants to know how     a word can be both
a thing and an action     like war and mistake

although I can't put into words in Spanish
how I know the difference                 so I tell her I have to go

and I go                        and she goes     I haven't taught her anything