I’m religious only when I speak Spanish – a poem by John Van Dreal

I’m religious only when I speak Spanish.

I don’t actually speak it. I have woven the effort to learn it 
into my daily rites—an app on my phone; smoking Indica 
while watching Telemundo; using Translator to read passages 
from Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy.

I hurriedly learned the basics with hopes of singing in a mariachi 
band but was limited by my lack of voice and talent.

I flirted with old-time Catholicism—took delight in the sparkle and 
texture of its grandeur but veered from tradition—

              I imagine a god who speaks Castilian and admonishes 
              my transgressions in the husky voice of the taxi driver 
              Esmerelda from Pulp Fiction: “Juan, usted es impaciente, 
              arrogante, crítico y en estreñido emocionalmente.” Such 
              is a deity easily adored. 

I adorned loved ones with nicknames: 
              Gatito Asesina—my commandment-breaking, 
              rodent-murdering cat; Perrito Tortuga—my 
              unconditionally loving, elderly, sluggish chihuahua-
              poodle; Dama Deliciosa—my gently seductive, 
              tempting spouse; Gar-Chico—my childlike son, 
              whom I called Buster Boy when he was a youngster; 
              Tejonita—my righteous daughter, who won every 
              argument, earning the title of Badger.

I adopted prayer but limited it to simple requests for redemption 
and the care of those who crash around in my heart— 
              Jesús, mi amigo. Por favor, perdona mi grandiosidad. 
              Por favor, cuidar mi familia y mis mascotas. Ah, y por 
              favor dame una voz para que pueda cantar en español.

A third-generation artist, John Van Dreal began painting and writing at age seven. He earned his formal education in Fine Arts at Humboldt State University and Brigham Young University and educational psychology at Brigham Young University, maintaining careers in both fields while writing. A musician and award-winning artist with work featured in collections throughout the Pacific Northwest, Van Dreal uses his creative vision and accessible writing style to explore both the darker and quirkier sides of human behavior. He resides in Salem, Oregon and is currently preparing his poetry book, titled Sand to Glass, for publication with WordTech Communications’ Cherry Grove Collections imprint (January of 2023).

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