When your mother calls you on a Monday night
Asking you how to spell “flexible” over the phone
Do not tell her you are busy
Or to just use a dictionary
Or that you’ll call her back in ten minutes

When your mother asks if you’re seeing anyone these days
Do not tell her, “Of course not.”
Or that it’s really none of her business

When you’re home for the first time in weeks and
She asks you to proofread an e-mail
Do not, with eyes half-closed
Say that it’s already perfect

When your mother asks if she can read your latest poem
Do not tell her that you’ve stopped writing
Or that it’s about something her immigrant ears probably wouldn’t understand

Instead, act as the daughter who’s been scribing since she was 10 years old

When your mother asks if you’re seeing anyone these days
Ask her what she knows about love stories
Ask her what her favorite one is
Ask her if she ever tried writing one once
Take notes

When you’re home for the first time in weeks and she asks you to proofread an e-mail
Write it out for her instead
Have your fingers listen and interpret her Spanglish carefully
And put in exclamation points sparingly
(Even though your mother is always speaking in exclamation points)
Have your fingers sign it “Best”
Because your mother’s never expected anything else of you

When your mother asks if she can see your latest poem
Perform it for her in the kitchen
Make your face contort
The way it did when she force-fed you spinach as a child
Have it show her everything you struggle to say behind a keyboard
Have it make her laugh
Have it make her cry

When you write about your mother later
Make sure to describe her accent
Write about the the J’s
That always make their way into her words
Because like her,
They’ve always been bossy
Don’t forget to mention the A’s, too
And the way they always sound like Spanish Surprise Parties
How all the letters in her speech together
Are machine guns full of hot balloons
Firing at Boston’s December air

Remember to write about her hands
The callouses on her thumbs
The pain in her wrists
Remember that they
Never came from writing a love story

When your mother calls you on a Monday night
Asking how to spell “Flexible”
Say every letter with la paciencia
Only the literary children of immigrants acquire
Say, F as in Forever, L as in Lupe, E as in Elevator, and so on
Keep going
Even when the letters feel like chewed chicken bones in your mouth
Even when you forget what the word even means
Keep going
Remember that you’re a writer because
Your mother makes you live out the lifetime of every word

Has you feel the dreams of every syllable
The regrets of every vowel
The struggles of every silent “h”
Remember that,
Your voice,
Over the phone
Your voice,
Telling this story to an audience later
Your voice
Has always been stringing letters together
Your voice has always been trying
To spell out the right word –
The loud one,
Tinged with a heavy accent
The one you’ve always known
Have always needed to say


Melissa Lozada-Oliva is a writer, slam poet, and recent graduate of Simmons College. She was a proud member of the 2014 Simmons College poetry slam team, Simmons Speaks. Her stories La Boda Blanca and Ana del Rio were published on TheWriteDeal.org. With writing, she wishes to capture the feeling her parents get when they meet someone from their home country and the feeling she gets when a Spanish word escapes her. She’s inspired by awkward silences, the cups of water her Abuela leaves out for the birds, and Beyonce. Follow her on Twitter: @ellomelissa.