Freshly arrived in McAllen, Texas, my parents’
hometown, I learned that I had an accent.
Kids in class couldn’t seem to understand
my South Carolinian draw, the dropped Rs and
lazy dipthongs, much too lethargic to blend.
I knew I would have to make some changes,
but didn’t want to sound like cousins and peers,
their short, Tex-Mex vowels, soft Gs and Ps,
devoiced final consonants and popping Vs.
So I studied TV newsmen, reporters, anchors,
the announcers and commercial actors,
and with a summer’s practice I ground
my twang into a barely perceptible hint—
the lightest of lilts. When school began again,
I greeted classmates with neutral Midwestern
plainness. “Where you from? ¿D’ónde eres?”
the other kids asked me. But I was no longer
certain, had scoured the South from my tongue,
had refused the spice of my father’s culture.
“Nowhere,” I blandly muttered. “Everywhere.”