Mango Languages

By Linda Bamber

Featured Art by Winslow Homer

—For Chris Bullock (in memoriam) and Carolyn Bernstein


In that world people are not discussing The End of the American Experiment.

       Yo soy de los Estados Unidos. ¿De dónde es usted?
        (I am from the United States. Where are you from?)

In that world people are not in a rage at their relatives for voting wrong and
sticking to it.

         ¡Tu hermano se parece más a tu abuelito que a ti!
         (Your brother looks more like your grandpa than you!)

People there are not tortured by thoughts of what they should have done to
prevent this; they do not endlessly analyze the causes of the disaster; or notice
how many of their friends are independently coming up with the metaphor of
a tsunami wiping away what is precious from the past and has been defended
by their devoted work.

       No llame a la policía. No es una emergencia.
        (Do not call the police. It’s not an emergency.)

In that world they do not sit glumly when friends excitedly tell of recent
protest marches; they are not thinking, “Great, feel inspired; meanwhile,
they’ve got all three branches of government.”

         ¡Me encantaría que me dejaras accompañarte a la esta de Pablo!
         (I would love it if you would let me accompany you to Pablo’s party!)

People there are not suddenly crossing the border into Canada in the snow
with children in their arms; or trooping out of Jewish Community Centers on
a Tuesday because of death threats; or writing emergency numbers on their
children’s forearms in indelible ink in case Mamacita doesn’t come home from
work that day.

Every morning I cross the border into Mango Languages, my ticket to
oblivion. “Loading your adventure,” says my computer when I boot it up.
Every ten minutes a woman’s joyful voice says, “Isn’t this easy?” to encourage
me, and I admit I feel encouraged.

        Córtalos en pedacitos y échalos al agua que está hirviendo.
        (Cut them in little pieces and throw them in boiling water.)

They are speaking of nothing more precious than carrots and onions; not,
for example, the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. We are learning to use the
imperative mood, that’s all; and today we are making soup.


Linda Bamber is a Professor of English at Tufts University. Her poems, fiction, essays and reviews have appeared in The Harvard Review, Ploughshares, Cimarron Review, The Kenyon Review, The Nation, The New York Times and elsewhere; her poetry collection, Metropolitan Tang, was published by David R. Godine. Her fiction collection, Taking What I Like, also from Godine, was an NPR “Best of 2013.”

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