Dime, baby, la razón

I’ve just spent two months on the Texas-Mexico border, where reggaetón rules the airwave, at least among the young. What strikes me about this music is how easily and naturally English is woven into the Spanish lyrics. Since many of the singers and listeners are bilingual, this should come as no surprise. Here’s a snatch from the Puerto Rican Daddy Yankee:

Yes yo, tu sabes quien tiene el best flow
El dueño y señor del mambo
Me piden crema y la suelto
Yo baby let’s mambo

Living and breathing English, subjugated, we all have at least a smattering of English flourishing and festering, erecting condos in our brain cells. For Daddy Yankee, it has become second nature. What’s disturbing to me are instances where English-babbling subjects at the furthest reaches of Empire still feel compelled to drop a latinated anglo saxon into their literary labor. Consider, for example, these brief poems by the Vietnamese Nam Di:


không thể khóc nấc lên
nghe có vẻ giả tạo
cũng không thể khóc âm thầm
chẳng hiểu vì sao
chỉ thi thoảng
lắng nghe đâu đó
trong đêm
tiếng những giọt nước rơi


Không gì tệ bằng sự không chắc chắn
về mình - về người - về mọi điều
Nó làm ta có cảm giác rơi xuống
rơi xuống với tốc độ
dù chậm chạp hay chóng mặt
vẫn khó thể gượng dậy

Không gì tệ bằng cảm giác rơi xuống
Nhói ở tim và buốt các mạch máu
cảm giác mất thăng bằng
về mình - về người - về mọi điều
Nó làm ta không thể định vị
dù nhắm mắt hay
mở trừng nhìn

As you can see, only her titles are in English, nothing else. I suppose that the use of English in a non-English poem is justified when you want to evoke a specifically English, American, Kiwi or Belizean reality, etc. Otherwise, dime, baby, la razón?

1 comment:

nam di said...

Dear Dinh Linh,
Thank you for reading and giving your comment to my "dimes". When I use English tittles for my "babies", i don't mean to disturb you or anyone else. They've just come to me very naturally with the attraction of concisiness what i was feeling at the moment. Anyway, i think they work cause they could evoke you, at least.
Thanks again. I love your poems, though.
Best regards,
Nam Di