A Bilingual Poem for #WriteMyCommunity
When I was eight, I remember staring out the car window and thinking about the disconnect between my world and the world of my Spanish-speaking neighbors who lived only a freeway exit away. No one in my family spoke Spanish, but I wanted to. In California, Spanish is the song of street signs and city names. It’s the voice of a history I wanted to hear, and neighbors I wanted to understand.
This was the beginning of what has become my life-long commitment to crossing borders of expectation and history, and the core of my work ensuring ELL students excel in schools. At the root of what drives me is humble curiosity, and the belief that stepping beyond our comfort zones is essential for creating a better world.
In honor of the National Day on Writing, I’m posting a poem on this year’s theme: community. I wrote this in my second language, Spanish, then translated it into English. It was first published on Sonoma County Transit Buses as part of a bilingual “Poetry on the Bus” campaign.
Por Tonya Ward Singer
Viajamos solos en un autobús atestado
guardando el silencio de la piel que nos divide,
lado a lado evitando la conexión visual.
Por los colores borrosos de la ventana,
busco el valor de expresarme en su idioma
y cruzar la frontera de nuestra historia y expectación.
Entre los árboles islados las raíces se entrelazan
nutriendo lo que no podemos ver.
Blancos. Latinos. Negros. Asianos. Somos inmigrantes todos
atravesando los límites para una California mejor.
On a crowded bus, we travel alone
guarding the silence of our separate skin
side-by-side avoiding each others’ eyes.
In the blurred window colors,
I seek courage to speak your language
to cross the borders of expectation and history.
Between isolated trees, roots entwine
nourishing what we don’t look to see.
Caucasians. Latinos. Blacks. Asians. We are all immigrants
crossing boundaries to make California home.
* * * *
What connections do you want to build in your community?
How will you begin?
Photo Credit: City of Sausalito by Jorge from Brazil (2013) (CC-BY 2.0)