Clover Poetry Series: Words I Don't Understand
This poem was inspired by the dread and embarrassment that I feel because I don't know my native language. It hurts more when I realize that I'm probably the first person in my family to not know the language of those that came before us and it feels like an awful betrayal.
Language and the relative freedom
it implies is but a jungle.
A jungle that seems to tangle my
words as they escape with my breath.
My breath then dances along
and hits my mother like a wave overflowing with
The thoughts of your judgment
create a noose around my neck,
forcing down all my attempts at communication.
You then laugh as I resort to the language
of the men that captured the land beneath my feet;
keeping it bound with chains and guarded by three headed hounds
till we forgot who we were.
But what makes you free to judge me
for the language I cannot speak?
Yet you abuse the privilege,
the wonderful privilege,
the beautiful privilege
of being tied to your ancestors with the
whispers of your mother.
I've tried to understand some words,
the words that threatened to leave signs on my thighs—
scattered with oceans of melanin
and rope burned stretch marks.
I've tried to wrap my head around
the never-endingly simple phrases
that have shaped my countless efforts but I've failed.
The solemnity of your speech
creates memories of your mockery—
leaving bittersweet flavors rotting at the tip of my tongue.
The taste of desperation crawls down my throat as I part my lips
I've given up on the privilege, the wonderful privilege, the beautiful privilege.
By Lucy Kebirungi, 13
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