You know how in Spanish they put
An -ita on things? So this girl
Mildred, this Puerto Rican girl
Where I work, pretty girl—so I get
To thinking that a funny thing about
Her name is that it's one thing that now
That you think of it it isn't clear how
I'd come right out
And ask her how, but figure it's a bit
Safer to let the questioning begin
With a little in the way of easing in.
As in it is Spanish isn't it
Where they do that, and are we talking small
Things specifically or is it more
Like anything you have affection for
And so forth and so on—all
Of which preliminary inquiries
Get me to the one I'm getting at:
Did they ever call her something like that
When she was a kid?
Only lowered eyes.
Then, like something she's confessing to,
That her father did. And would she mind my
Asking what it was? No reply,
So I try prompting with a few
Possibilities. Not to press her,
But I've got to know how that would go:
Mildrita? "No." Mildredita? "No."
Mildredecita? "No!" Then . . . "Princesa."
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 25 Number 7, on page 30
Copyright © 2020 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com