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Poetic License

By Staff | Jun 21, 2010

They thought the name would do it.

“Let’s call him Joseph, not José,

the first Americano in the family,

he will speak, read and write in English,

he will be one of them.”

So after my home delivery,

as my father stood at my mother’s bedside

cradling me in his arms,

they both said “Joseph” at once

when the doctor asked for the newborn’s name.

But never once in their entire lives

did they ever come close to calling me

by the name they thought would do it.

I was still “José” to them or “Joselito,”

“Pepe” or “Pepito,”

and even as the years passed

and their English improved,

and cousins with first names

like “Nelson” and “Wilson” and “Shirley”

began to appear in the family —

they still could not even manage one “Joe”.

However, in his ninety-fifth year of life

and sixty-fourth in this country,

as my father lay in Metropolitan Hospital,

having been found semi-delirious

and dehydrated on the floor

of his tiny apartment in Corsi Houses,

I stood at his bedside with an intern

who in trying to gather patient family data

asked me my first name:

“Joseph,” whispered my father proudly.