Conjugation | Harrison Candelaria Fletcher


|ˌkänjəˈɡāSH(ə)n| noun

  • the variation of a verb in an inflected language, identified by voice, tense, person
  • the formation of a link or a connection
  • the solution of a problem by transforming it into an equivalent problem of a different form – solving this, then reversing the transformation


Inglés: “Who are you?”

Español: “¿Quien Eres?”

Your daughter has begun speaking Spanish in shy broken tones alone in her new high school halls. If she can find the right words, she says to herself, maybe she can finally belong.


Inglés: “What are you?”

Español: “¿Qué eres?”

It is you, she reminds you, who moved her here, so that she might know her roots: Colorado, Virginia, Colorado again, by way of a New Mexican valley. But the roots that she knows are tangled like yours, buried beneath decades of doubt.


Inglés: “What are we?”

Español: “¿Que somos?”

Coyoté, they called you, a mixed-mongrel mutt, a half-breed school yard name, neither White nor Latino, but somewhere between, a creature of this, that, and other.


Inglés: “Who am I?

Español: “¿Quién soy?”

If she can speak Spanish, she tries to explain, she will not feel so much like a fraud. But you are who you are, you say in response, three-quarters Latina counting her mom.

Yet, you both know who it is you are trying convince, and who you are trying to see through her.


Inglés: “Who are you?

Español: “¿Quién eres tú?”

You joined a gang once, if you could call it a gang, since it lasted barely a month. The name was the problem, finding the words, and in the end it was “Zorros” you chose. The Mexican outlaw attracted your friends, but for you it, was always the mask.


Inglés: “Who are we?”

Español: “¿Quienes somos?”

She met a boy at school who is something like her, who cannot speak his native tongue. His family thinks when they talk to his back he won’t know what they say but he does.


Inglés: “What are we?

Español: “¿Qué somos?”

You asked your mother once why she never taught you Spanish and she said because you never wanted know. That was not quite true, the never wanting to part, it was always more about the asking. But you knew that she knew this, and she knew it, too, and that was the language you spoke.


Inglés: “We are…”

Español: “Estamos..”

She met a girl from Guatemala who helps her in class pound tin words into silver. This courage your daughter has you wished you possessed, the making one voice from two.


Inglés: “You are…”

Español: “Usted está…”

“So, what are you?” asks the woman at the diversity mixer. When you respond with silence, she says with a shrug, “If you don’t know, then maybe you’re nothing.”


Inglés: “I am…”

Español: “Yo soy…”

Your daughter is joining a Latino club at school, but fears they might laugh or send her away, so she changes her phone to Spanish, and whispers to the screen in the dark.


coyote: |ˈkīˌōtkīˈōdē| [kahy-oh-tee] (noun) Canis latrans.: from Mexican Spanish, from Nahuatl coyotl.

Characteristic: its cry, its howl, its song.


Inglés: “We are…”

Español: “Estamos…”

She texts you and image without translation on the day of her first club meeting – an oval of black and white and silvery-gray; a mask, a mirror, a moon.

Harrison Candelaria Fletcher is the author of Descanso For My Father: Fragments Of A Life, and Presentimiento: A Life in Dreams. His work has appeared widely in such journals as Fourth GenreBrevity and Passages North. He teaches nonfiction at Colorado State University and Vermont College of Fine Arts and is working on an essay collection exploring mixed-ness.

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