How Am I Supposed To Know? by Benjamin Soto

My mother once asked: “Don’t you know what we went through, mi hijo, mi sangre!”
I looked to her bewildered and unable to answer.
And she looked to me, eyes in a rage, continuing as I glanced to her.

“Don’t you know what we went through to get here?”
Silence was all I could say at the moment,
For that dumb kid’s voice hadn’t formed he hadn’t honed it.

And if I were to go back to that place and that time,
I would say something different as the thoughts flow through this mind.

I would say, “Mama, how I can know about that island of yours?
About a place that I do not know,
That you claim to love but yet left so long ago.
How could I know about the pains of growing up?
To a brother drug dealer lying dead at your doorstep,
You being a little girl with the family strength through you having been kept?
How could I know about the hatred and the love?
That you had with your mother,
And you, becoming a mother for your one surviving brother?
How could I know about moving to New York?
Working at age sixteen,
Sending money back home to the island to a family not seen?
How could I know of the pain of a man who said he loved you?
Leaving behind three children for you to raise,
And to this day his name you never utter and will never praise?
Tell me mother how can I possibly know?”

And before she could speak I would make sure to go on.

“Mama how could I know of bouncing from place to place,
Finally reaching this place hoping your day will come,
But alas this place brought you me, your last and final son.
And this man, my father, loves you,
And has been with you to this day,
Making up for the scars in your heart from the man whose name you do not say.

Those things I do not and can not know, but there are some things that I do.

I know of the streets I lived in,
Not like the streets of the island,
Streets of rage and hate and anger,
In that, perhaps like on the island,
Where fools think violence solves all problems.
I know of English being my first language,
Spanish being a confusing thing I can somehow understand,
But to utter the words of this language somehow slips through my hands.
I was educated in a neighborhood away from where we lived,
And going home getting educated by the streets of where we lived,
Seeing the real world as it was and not as a dream.
Seeing that you came here for something better than what you had,
On the island of Puerto Rico that was your birthplace and true past.
And in some ways God gave you your wish,
With my father by your side,
You rose from the ashes and cleared the path of a terribly painful ride.
Through family loss and pain and suffering,
You kept us together for you are God’s blessing,
Feeding us with the strength that you didn’t have to give.
So, no mama, I do not know what you went through,
But I know it was difficult and a road full of hardship,
A road full of temptations but you saw through all that bull.
You taught me how to love, mama,
And what to do with my hate,
You made me see this world is beautiful and ugly,
And that there are those that would care for me and hurt me.
You taught me to be vigilant when I can see no more,
And to walk the path with legs giving in,
Always trying to be good and always paying for my sins.
You are the giver of life to me,
Bringing me into this world,
Hoping that I would do you right and be one not to make you hurt.
And, Mama, the one thing within that will never die,
That will live on and strive on till the end of time,
Is that I love you.”

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