What is the theme of the poem? What is the tone of the poem?
A "theme" of a literary work is its main message, as opposed to its "subject," which is its topic. The subject here is stated in the title: "Legal Alien." The theme, then, is what the author has to say about being a legal alien. Pat Mora's emphasis on "Bi" suggests what the poem goes on to provide examples of: he leads a double life. He can slip easily between languages and is fluent in both. He's "American but hyphenated," meaning he doesn't feel completely American; the hyphen singles him out as different, suggesting that he never completely fits in. Each side--Anglos and Mexicans--view him as the Other, a half-breed. He is handy for them, though: he is a "token / sliding back and forth" between both worlds, helping them communicate. He smiles to hide his chronic discomfort but he knows he is judged "bi-laterally"--on both sides, all the time.
The theme could be summed up as "Legal aliens live between worlds." His tone is one of acceptance and resignation.
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