Talk Talk

By Chris Campanioni

My father learned English

On the radio—

Sing-song Santiago Spanish

“Rocks Off,” The Rolling Stones

Your mouth don’t move

But I can hear you speak


So many questions

People want to know

What makes me what I am

I tell them the way I was raised

I tell them

Ga-ga-BOOM

Ga-ga-BOOM

Music everywhere in the house

Learning English

On the ratio

Of aguacate y cebollas

Kiełbasa

Equal parts

We held our hips

With each other’s hands

Formed a line

Carne-con-pa-PA

Carne-con-pa-PA

Close to madness, we suffered

Such hunger


My mother learned English

Just by listening

Too poor to afford

Even that simple luxury

Audio or visual

Mistaken for a storyteller

When she stood silent


Eyes closed and wondering

Like holding the hand

Of her child


Chris Campanioni has worked as a journalist, model, and actor, and he teaches literature and creative writing at Baruch College and Pace University, and new form journalism at John Jay. His “Billboards” poem responding to Latino stereotypes and mutable—and often muted—identity in the fashion world was awarded the 2013 Academy of American Poets Prize. His novel, Going Down, was selected as Best First Book at the 2014 International Latino Book Awards.