Eloisa Amezcua

Teaching My Mother English over the Phone

I try to explain the difference           between pant & 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 to 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 accidenté,
          y me dijo “I’m sorry” & when someone says I am, yo 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 & 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 & she goes           & I haven’t taught her
anything           & for that I am sorry           to no one but myself



My Mother’s Been Trying to Kill Me since the Day I Was Born

clinging umbilical
& needy I lay

in a puddle dim
& shallow inside

my mother
a different cold

choking on her
body my noose

she pushed &
strangled me

further into

until doctors
incised through

layers of her

gloved hands
pulled me

out of the womb

alive & furious


Eloisa Amezcua is an Arizona native. Her poetry and translations are published or forthcoming from POETRY, The Journal, Cherry Tree, and others. She is the author of the chapbooks On Not Screaming (Horse Less Press) and Symptoms of Teething, winner of the 2016 Vella Chapbook Prize from Paper Nautilus Press. Eloisa is the founder/editor of The Shallow Ends: A Journal of Poetry. You can find her at www.eloisaamezcua.com.